Canyons of the Ancients, National Monument

Hovenweep-28After visiting the Anasazi Heritage Museum yesterday and seeing all the artifacts that were excavated from the Canyons of the Ancients and learning about the Ancestral Puebloan life on the Great Sage Plains, we wanted to visit the area in person. The Canyon of the Ancients encompasses more than 170,000 acres of high desert in the southwest corner of Colorado. Thousands of archaeological sites have been recorded in this incredibly ancient culture rich area. The first we stopped at was Lowry Pueblo, a 1,000-year-old Ancestral Pueblo village, and most of the area is protected under a modern roof. Off to the side we saw the Lowry Great Kiva, 47 feet in diameter, it is one of the largest kivas found is this area, very impressive, definitely the largest kiva we have seen so far. Click on thumbnail to view images

Then we continued on down the road to see the Painted Hand Pueblo, built in the AD 1200s, it was a small village of about 20 rooms that still include faint rock paintings, and we were able to find one of the faint hand paintings. We saw a sign to Cutthroat Castle Ruins, it was a four-wheel drive road, and well worth the drive to some fantastic ruins, part of the Hovenweep National Monument. The Cutthroat ruins were built approximately 800 years ago by the Ancestral Puebloans nestled in a forest of piñon and juniper trees that provided the Puebloans with a variety of useful material.  After walking around these ruins we continued along the four-wheel drive road back to the paved road to the the visitor center of the Hovenweep National Monument. Click on thumbnail to view images

At the Hovenweep Visitor Center we watched a great short film about all the ruins that exist here in this canyon. We walked the Rim Trail Loop, about 2 miles, with views of all the wonderful ruins; the Stonghold House, Twin Towers, Rim Rock House, Square Tower, Hovenweep House, Hovenweep Castle, and Tower Point. The Twin Towers were very carefully constructed, amazing architecture, the two buildings rise from the native bedrock, their walls almost touching. Hovenweep means “deserted valley”, it’s hard to imagine that these solitary canyons once echoed with the cries and laughter of hundreds of men, women and children. Hovenweep is considered to be the finest examples of ancestral Puebloan masonry found anywhere, and we were definitely in awe as we walked through the canyons, these ruins evoke feelings of wonder at the motivations and resourcefulness of their builders. We went to three more ruins of the Hovenweep, the Holly, Horseshoe and Hackberry just off the paved road. The Holly includes Tilted Tower, Holly Tower and Holly House which are located at the end of Keeley Canyon. Loved the Holly Tower, built atop a large sandstone boulder in the canyon bottom, sometime after AD 1200, and you can still see the steps and hand-holds that were pecked into the boulder below the entrance. Holly House is the largest ruin here and the two wood beams at the top of the Holly House are the original beams constructed 800 years ago. Amazing!!!! Our last ruins were a one mile walk round trip that includes the structures at the Horseshoe and Hackberry sites, built 800 years ago. Finally we headed back after visiting many, many different Ancestral Puebloan ruins, I am on overload. So we stopped at the Pepperhead Restaurant in Cortez for dinner and a margarita, yummy!! Click on thumbnail to view images