Situated on the southwest Colorado, southest Utah border, several Canyons sites are accesible by visitors. There are thousands of archeological sites within the Bureau of Land Management's Canyons of the Ancients.
from the Bureau of Lnad managements website (couldn't say it any better)
The Monument contains the highest known archaeological site density in the United States, with rich, well-preserved remnants of native cultures. The archeological record etched into this landscape is much more than isolated islands of architecture. The more than 6,000 recorded sites reflect all the physical components of past human life: villages, field houses, check dams, reservoirs, great kivas, cliff dwellings, shrines, sacred springs, agricultural fields, petroglyphs, and sweat lodges. Some areas have more than 100 sites per square mile. The number of sites is estimated to be 20,000 to 30,000 total.
The Monument has been used or inhabited by humans, including the Northern Ancestral Puebloan culture (or Anasazi), for 10,000 years, and continues to be a landscape used by humans today. Historic uses of the Monument include recreation, hunting, livestock grazing and energy development.
There are some sites that you absolutely should not miss while you are in this area. (unfortunately, we did miss quite a bit...but we'll be back.)
These sites include:
* Lowry Pueblo
* Painted Hand Pueblo
* Sand Canyon Pueblo
* Sand Canyon Trail
The second site in the Canyons of the Ancients we visited was the Painted Hand Pueblo. It gets it's name from the pictographs of hands painted on a boulder...please don't touch, the oils from your skin will destroy what is left...
The signature piece here is the remains of a tower, the sites has not been excavated, but there are exposed walls that have been built into the alcoves and boulders in the area. The trail gets a little difficult past the tower, but venture on, and follow the balanced rocks (they mark the trail) past several small towers and alcove dwellings.
This is a backcountry site and we found ourselves alone out there. The dirt road continues past the Painted Hand to the Cutthroat group in the Hovenweep National Monument. The road past Painted Hand gets very difficult and high clearnace 4WD vehicle is required.
From the BLM website...
To reach it you should have a good map and a vehicle with good clearance. Drive north from Cortez on Highway 491 (formerly 666). Turn left (west) from the highway on County Road BB and travel 6 miles to the intersection with County Road 10. Turn south (left) and go 11.3 miles. Turn left onto a rocky, high-clearance dirt road (# 4531). Go about 1 mile and turn left into the small parking area. Please leave your vehicle here and walk the remaining short distance to the site.
This Ancestral Puebloan village was constructed around AD 1060 and inhabited for about 165 years. As with many of these villages, Lowry Pueblo consisted of a few rooms and a kiva (similar to a "family" room or ceremonial area) but grew to 40 rooms and eight kivas and a Great Kiva between AD 1085 and 1170.
The Lowry Great Kiva is 47 feet in diameter! It is one of the largest known kivas found in this area, and certainly the largest one that we visited on our trip. Construction started around AD 1086, and was probably more than the center of the village's families, but may have acted as a community center for villages from several hundred square miles to trade, exchange news and conduct religious ceremonies.
Lowry Pueblo was named for George Lowry, a homesteader that discovered it. It was excavated in the 1930's and became a hitorical landmark in 1967. The Bureau of Land Management has done only a little to the masonry to maintain the structure, and now a portion of the village is under a roof structure to protect it further from the weather.
Access to this site is off a maintained dirt and gravel road that passes through farmland. As you drive through these green fields, think about how many centuries these lands were farmed by the ancestral puebloan people...
P.O. Box 818, Dolores, Colorado, 81323, United States
Good for: Business
101 S. Fifth St., Corner of 5th & Central, Dolores, Colorado, 81323, United States
Good for: Families
24925 Road T, Dolores, Colorado, 81323, United States
When visiting the ruins in the Canyons of the Ancients, please remember that this is the ancestral home of many Native American peoples, and represents an amazing chapter in US history. Please show the respect that you would expect from visitors in your home.
Other very important tips for visiting the sites in the Canyons of the Ancients:
* Archelogical sites are fragile. Do not step on walls or mounds.
* Do not stand or sit on walls, move rocks or climb through doorways. All cause damage to these structures.
* Never touch painted and plastered walls or petroglyphs. Skin oils will cause damage.
* Don't bring food in the site. It attracts rodents which will tunnel under the sites, causing structural damage.
* Do not leave trash or "human waste" anywhere. It is ugly and unsanitary.
* Leave artifacts where they are. It is illegal to remove items.
* Don't camp in the ruins. Do not use wood from these sites for fires.
* Stay on existing roads.
* Do not leave "offerings" at the sites. It obscures the historical and archeological "story"
The Canyons of the Ancients is home to many archeological sites, but little water...
If you plan to venture into the canyons, be it by auto or foot, make sure you bring plenty of water with you.
When we hiked out to the Painted Hand Pueblo, the dirt road led us way out into the wilderness, far from the nearest watering hole. We had our "CamelBack" backpacks with us, each carrying about 40 oz of water...
Wildlife in this area includes deer, elk, coyotes, foxes, rabbits, wild turkeys, ducks, lizards and over 100 species of birds. rare snakes, lizards and scorpions.
But, for the wary, there are also mountain lions, snakes and scorpions.
Falcons and eagles can evn be found hunting here in season.
Fondest memory: I felt like Alice going to Wonderland. When we reached the parking area, a playful jackrabbit sttod at the trailhead waiting for us to get our gear. As we approached the trailhead, our rabbit jumped ahead along the trail. As we continued, the rabbit led our way, and at every turn he was watching to see that we went the right way...He led us right to the Painted Hand Tower.
Hmmm...is this a sign from the Ancient Ones????