A Canyon Country Guide to Anasazi Indian Ruins in Colorado/Utah
Anasazi Indian Ruins - Best Places to Visit (Part 2)
by Joseph A. Sprince - Photography by Gerald B. Allen
Map of Anasazi Indian Ruins
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This page provides a guide to the major Anasazi-related sites in Colorado and Utah that are accessible to the public. Each site is unique both in the nature of the structures and the physical locale. All are extremely scenic. In Part 1, we cover the major Anasazi-related sites in Arizona and New Mexico
Anasazi Indian Ruins Guide:
Arizona/New Mexico (Part 1) |
Colorado/Utah (Part 2)
Anasazi Indian Ruins - Colorado
- Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde is perhaps the most well known Indian cultural park in the United States.
The main attraction is the many elaborate cliff dwellings in the area. The largest,
and most famous, is called the Cliff Palace. Mesa Verde was one of the three centers
of early Anasazi culture, the other two being Chaco to the south and the Kayenta
branch in Arizona. The area has been occupied for nearly 2,000 years. The park
features mesa top pueblos and pit houses (dating from perhaps 600 C.E.) as well
as the cliff dwellings which were built and occupied only during the final few
decades of Anasazi occupation in the 13th century.
There is also an excellent museum. Many ranger-guided
tours are available including the famous Balcony House tour. The drive up to the mesa is
extremely scenic. The mesa tops out at over 8,000 feet so its wooded, very green
(verde means green), and cool. Access and activities limited in winter. Back to Map
- Hovenweep National Monument
The monument protects six groups of highly unusual Anasazi ruins
scattered in a high desert area broken by box canyons (shallow but steep walled).
The remote and undeveloped nature of the area offers a unique experience and perhaps a
perspective into the ancient world. The Anasazi lived here from about 1100-1300 C.E.
While related to the Mesa Verde Anasazi, the Hovenweep
people added their own unique touch to their buildings, having a penchant for
towers and massive castle-like structures. And in varied shapes
that included square, rectangular, round, and D-shaped! There is a campground
and small visitor center. Back to Map
- Ute Mountain Tribal Park
The Ute Mountain Tribal Park in southwestern Colorado was created to preserve significant remnants of
the Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) people, including spectacular cliff dwellings and rock art. Access to
the park which is along the Mancos River and tributary canyons - and adjacent to Mesa Verde National Park
- is by guided tour only.
The Ute Mountain Tribal Park tours are highly recommended to anyone who is interested in cliff dwellings or any aspect of Ancestral Pueblo culture. The quality of the experience is similar to Keet Seel in Arizona's Navajo National Monument, which is generally considered to be the best preserved and most pristine of all Anasazi cliff dwellings. However the hiking and general effort of the all-day tour is quite a bit more strenuous than activities at Mesa Verde National Park. Back to Map
- Canyons of the Ancients and Anasazi Heritage Center
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is one of the country's newer monuments. It contains a huge number of archaeological sites - more than 6000 recorded so far, and up to 100 per square mile in some places - representing Ancestral Puebloan and other Native American cultures. The monument is managed as an integral cultural landscape containing a wealth of historic and environmental resources. It is mostly undeveloped, mostly dirt roads. So this is a good place to explore on your own.
The Anasazi Heritage Center, located north of Cortez near Dolores on CO-145, is also the headquarters for Canyons of the Ancients. It has a wide variety of exhibits, permanent and visiting, and other educational resources. These include a research library of archaeology and anthropology resources and a collection of over 3 million artifacts and records from archaeological projects in Southwest Colorado. Back to Map
- Chimney Rock Archaeological Area
Chimney Rock Archaeological Area is a San Juan National Forest Archaeological Area located in southwest Colorado off of US-160 between Durango and Pagosa Springs. It is managed for archaeological protection, public interpretation, and education. Its principal highlight is a Chacoan-style great house dating to 1076 AD, which is currently being excavated and stabilized on an ongoing basis. Hundreds of other structures have been found in the area. Daily and special tours are offered. Back to Map
Anasazi Indian Ruins - Utah
- Grand Gulch Primitive Area
Grand Gulch is one of the finest cultural and recreational resources on
the Colorado Plateau. It winds for fifty miles before reaching the San Juan
River. The lush canyon is ideal for backpacking and pack trips. And it is full
of Anasazi relics. Remnants of small dwellings are scattered throughout Grand
Gulch. But a big feature is the fabulous rock art, for the most part colorful
painted pictographs. This is an unsupervised environment so you get to enjoy these
relics in a private and natural setting. Please be aware that you are being
trusted with irreplaceable things. Look but do not touch!! You do need
a permit to enter this area. Back to Map
- Canyonlands National Park - Newspaper Rock State Park
The Canyonlands region is rich in small scale Anasazi ruins and rock art. One of the
most famous sites is Newspaper Rock adjacent to the Needles District. The large flat
rock wall is literally covered by petroglyphs. If you are a backpacker, you will
be able to reach the famous "All American Man" pictograph on Salt Creek.
At the nearby town of Blanding, the Edge of the Cedars State Park
offers a partially excavated pueblo and a small museum. Back to Map
- Horseshoe Canyon - Canyonlands National Park
The Great Gallery of Horseshoe Canyon is considered the finest rock art
panel in America. While this area was the domain of the Fremont people during
the Anasazi era, the rock art is much more ancient. The style, which is
considered very spiritual and mystical, is known as "Barrier Canyon" and is
associated with the Archaic Indians during the years 2000 B.C.E to 500 C.E.
Relics in the area have been dated to 9000 B.C.E Access is via 30 miles of
dirt road, then several miles of pretty tough hiking into the canyon.
Horseshoe Canyon - The Great Gallery Features America's Finest Rock Art Back to Map
- Anasazi Indian Village State Historical Monument
Located in the remote town of Boulder, Utah, this site offers an excavated Anasazi
village and a museum. It is unusual because the village was established around
1075 B.C.E. by Kayenta Anasazi migrating up from the south. The area offered
fertile land, plentiful water, and good climate. The village prospered for nearly
200 years and became a crossroads of Anasazi and Fremont culture. The village
burned in 1275. The cause is not known nor is the whereabouts of the residents
after the village was destroyed. Location: In the town of Boulder, Utah, near Capitol Reef National Park.
460 North Highway 12
Boulder, UT 84716 Phone: 435-335-7308 Back to Map
- Glen Canyon National Recreational Area
The Glen Canyon area was probably on the outskirts of Ancestral Puebloan settlement. No large communities were built in this area, but a few cliff dwellings and other sites have been found. Defiance House, discovered in 1959, located three miles up the middles fork of Forgotten Canyon is one of the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in the Glen Canyon National Recreational area. Occupied from about 1250-1285 C.E., no one knows why such a dwelling was built in such an inaccessible place.
If you plan on backpacking or renting a houseboat, make local inquiry with the Glen Canyon NRA rangers about visiting cultural sites in the area. Back to Map
Anasazi Indian Ruins Guide:
Arizona/New Mexico (Part 1) |
Colorado/Utah (Part 2)
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