You can tour an ancient ruin without leaving town on Saturday.
Mesa Grande Cultural Park opens Jan. 19, at 1000 N. Date St. in Mesa, and at its heart is an enormous ceremonial mound that’s survived more than 900 years, even as the city has been built up around it.
The event begins with an 8:30 a.m. blessing and ribbon cutting, followed by a free pancake breakfast that goes until 10:30 a.m. Tours of the mound run 9 a.m. to noon, and at 10 a.m. a group of dancers will perform.
The Mesa Grande mound, made with natural caliche (or lime-cemented soil) walls, is longer and wider than a football field and is 27 feet high. The ancient Hohokam, ancestors of today’s Pima people, built and used it between AD 1100 and 1450, according to Arizona Museum of Natural History’s website. It says the mound was the public and ceremonial center for a one of the largest Hohokam villages in the Salt River Valley.
The park includes a “Welcoming Center and Gathering Place” and an interpretive trail. Nine stations on the trail correspond to significant places on the mound, calling visitors to stop and take note of deeper information about their surroundings, which remain largely undeveloped. In one corner of the site is a replica Hohokam ballcourt, where games were played using a rubber ball made from a local plant.
Mesa Grande is one of two large surviving temple mounds of the Hohokam in the Valley, according to the museum. The other is preserved within Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park in Phoenix.
There is no cost for the grand opening events on Jan. 19. For information, call (480) 644-2230 or visit MesaGrandeCulturalPark.org.