Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument is a collection of 6 prehistoric villages built between AD 1200 and AD 1300 that housed about 2,500 people. It is located due west of Cortez, Colorado, just over the Utah state line. The people of Hovenweep hunted animals and farmed the rocky lands of this harsh, rugged country. They left behind a wealth of structures that give us clues to how they lived.

The pueblos of Hovenweep are actually scattered over an area extending for several miles. On our trip, Donna and I only visited the greatest concentration of buildings located near the visitor center. There is a short, well maintained trail there that loops around the canyon where the structures are located. To complete the loop, you must actually cross the canyon, which is about 80 feet deep at the point where the trail traverses it.

Hovenweep National Monument Visitor Center
We picked up a copy of the Little Ruin Canyon Trail Guide at the visitor center and followed it as we made our way around the canyon. I took a large number of pictures and will post a few below. Please use the Little Ruin Canyon Trail Guide to get more information about the structures shown in the pictures below.

Looking up the canyon
The picture above shows a number of the buildings in Little Ruin Canyon. Use the trail guide to help you and see if you can find them all. One of the interesting things about these buildings is how well they blend into the environment; after all, they are actually an outgrowth of the environment. Buildings in the picture above are, from left to right: Twin Towers, Rim Rock House, Eroded Boulder House, Round Tower, and Tower Point.

Twin Towers, which once housed 16 rooms.
Some of the structures, like the Twin Towers above, were built on the rim of the canyon, while others, like the Round Tower shown below, were built down in the canyon.

Round Tower, located near the canyon floor
Good view up the south arm of the canyon, with hiker on ridge for contrast. Notice how deep and steep the walls are. In the picture, you can see several structures: Hovenweep House, Hovenweep Castle (both near center of picture on ridge) and Unit Type House on far right of rim.

Tower Point, located at point between two canyon arms, thereby providing a commanding view of the community. The building was probably used for storage.
This view up the southern arm of the canyon shows Hovenweep House, Square Tower (down in canyon), and Hovenweep Castle on ridge.
Eroded Boulder House is one of the most interesting structures in the canyon. It appears to be a boulder hollowed out, then with rocks supporting the overhang.
Hovenweep Castle

This is a remarkable archaeological site. It is located 45 miles from Cortez on paved county roads through productive farmland. On our way there, we took the northern route via US 491. On the return trip, we followed McElmo Creek through a canyon of rich farmlands growing various crops, including grapes.

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