Sunday, September 14, 2014

Canyon of the Ancients and Hovenweep

Sept 11th, 2014

Today, we decided to drive a loop drive through the nearby Canyon of the Ancients and Hovenweep National Monuments to see some additional ruins. This is the kind of day that just suits us……driving out some pretty lonesome roads….even toss in a dirt road or two……not in any hurry….to discover something pretty awesome!

Our first stop was the Anasazi Heritage Center just north of Mesa Verde. The National Park Ranger had mentioned that this was a good place to stop and get a map of the area and more information. He was right…and then some! This Heritage Center did a better job at presenting the Puebloan culture and setting the stage for visiting the ruins than the National Park did.

Our first stop was Lowery Pueblo in the Canyon of the Ancients. This settlement was constructed around 1060 AD and was occupied for 165 years. What first started out as  a small village with a few rooms and a kiva grew to a complex of 40 rooms 8 kivas and a Great Kiva. It is thought that maybe 40 people lived at Lowery Pueblo, but the presence of a Great Kiva (a large, 47 feet in diameter kiva) suggests that this location may have been used for larger seasonal gatherings of different villages.

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After driving about 9 miles on an unpaved road, we got to Lowery Pueblo and were delighted to find only one other car in the parking lot. We could walk around and explore at our leisure, stopping to get a real feel for the people who once lived here. note- the roof in the picture was added to protect the larger area of walls from erosion.

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The native peoples believe that the spirit of their ancestors live on in the places that they lived.


These stone walls……

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Which were once two or three stories high……formed an ‘apartment building’ complex, with the smaller kivas functioning (I like to imagine) like living rooms where an extended family or clan would gather.

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This is the Great Kiva.The stone figures on the floor of the Kiva are thought to represent the Winter People and the Summer People.

We took our time at Lowery Pueblo……..imagining the people who lived here….who laughed and loved and worked and played here. This was the experience that had been missing yesterday.

To top it off, we had a lovely conversation with a young couple who, with their 5 year old daughter, were traveling about documenting the remotest place in each state. They have an organization called Remote Footprints that you can follow at They are advocating for fewer new road developments and preservation of the remote area in the USA.

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Our next stop was Painted Hand Pueblo, another nice drive down a dirt road. We did not hike around to the ruins, but took this picture from across the canyon. Then, we pulled up in the shade and enjoyed our lunch.


Last on our sightseeing tour was Hovenweep National Monument, which is actually a collection of ruins at several different locations. We were stopping at the main Visitor’s Center at the Square Tower Group.


There is a nice 2 mile hiking trail that will take you around all the ruins in this grouping. It is mostly level, with an easy surface and outlined with stones. There is just one short section that goes down to the canyon floor and then back out that is a bit steep.


We hiked/walked this trail….stopping to admire the stone buildings along the way.


You know….building construction is an interest of ours……..


And we marveled at not only the construction……


But the placement of these buildings……Right on the very edge of the cliff!


Unlike the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde or the Lowery Pueblo, these buildings seemed to be one or two rooms….or maybe a tower…..single family homes (or a family clan) instead of an apartment building…..


All clustered around the edge of this small canyon, where there was a natural seep and water run off at the bottom.


The building styles were similar in all the different Pueblos, incorporating both round and square elements.


And using wooden beams joining double thickness stone walls.


This ‘Boulder House’ was unique……built rather like the houses that we saw in Turkey that were hollowed out of the rock.

Hovenweep provided the perfect combination of experience…….solitude, a nice hike, and interesting features…..and a chance to imagine the people who had once lived here. 

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