Friday, September 7, 2012

Anasazi Heritage Center

The Anasazi Heritage Center, located just west of Dolores, Colorado, should be one of your first stops if you want to explore archaeology sites in the Four Corners area. Not only is it a treasure trove of information for archaeological sites in the area, it has a nice visitor center and 2 pueblos on site for viewing. I won't repeat information from the website, which is linked above; if you are interested, you can refer to it. I will share our experiences here, though.

The center is located on a slope above McPhee Reservoir, which is formed by the Dolores River. Currently, the lake is quite low due to low rainfall and snowfall amounts during the past year. However, the natural beauty of the lake is quite obvious.

As you approach the center, you pass the first pueblo, the Dominguez Pueblo, a four-room structure that was built about AD 1123. This pueblo would probably have supported a family of 4 to 8 people, and other pueblos were located nearby, forming a small, loosely organized village.

Dominguez Pueblo. A small kiva was located in front, but was backfilled to preserve it.
Admission to the center is $3 per adult. Once inside, we browsed the various displays and watched a short film. By learning all we could at the center, our visits to other archaeological sites in the area will be more interesting.

Typical of displays found in the center. This shows how natives would grind corn.
After seeing all that the center has to offer, we walked the half-mile interpretive trail that zig-zagged up a hill to Escalante Pueblo. The paved trail was lined with benches and interpretive signs that described the plants along the way.

Paved interpretive trail with sign providing information about plants.
As we worked our way up the 3 switchbacks, the views became greater. We were especially interested in the view of Ute Mountain (9,979 ft.) to the south. We had been watching the mountain since our arrival in Cortez, and I had read somewhere that there was a story behind it. Signs along the way indicated the various mountains in that direction as well as their elevations, and one sign told the story about the Sleeping Ute for which the mountain is named. I'm providing pictures below that relate to this.

Ute Mountain information

Sleeping Ute Mountain. Can you see the sleeping Indian as shown in the interpretive sign above?
At the top, we came upon Escalante Pueblo, a structure reflecting the architectural style of Chaco Canyon. The original structure was built about AD 1129. This pueblo contained more people than the Dominguez Pueblo.
Escalante Pueblo
This photo more clearly shows the kiva in the center of the pueblo
Escalante Pueblo is located at the top of a hill. Its location affords a great view of McPhee Reservoir and the surrounding area.

McPhee Reservoir, looking north. The pointed peak in the center is Lone Cone Mountain, and it is 12,614 feet tall and about 25 miles away as the crow flies.

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