Sunday, October 14, 2012


Hovenweep Castle

Heading south from Moab on Hwy 191 we turn off onto less traveled roads to Hovenweep National Monument.  We find a lovely spot at the Hovenweep campground.  The spaces dedicated to RV use are wide, level and come with their own sun shaded picnic table and fire ring.  This is dry camping at it’s best.

The park is known mainly for six village groups of the Ancient Puebloans, but this area was also inhabited by the hunter and gather Paleo-Indians for around eight thousand years prior to the arrival of the early pueblo people around 200 AD.  From 200 to around 900 AD the population of the area grew and finally began to explode around 1,000 AD.  At this time the residents began to move from the mesa tops to the canyon rims and a building boom of check dams, towers and kivas changed the landscape.  These towers and kivas display a fine level of construction and many appear to be more defensive structures, situated near water resources.  All of these structures are astronomically aligned both (solar and lunar) for keeping time and tracking the seasons.

The Little Ruin Canyon is an enjoyable 2-mile round trip hike from the campground.  The views along the canyon rim are spectacular.  We start off in the late afternoon at the first structure a snake crosses our path hissing and rattling.  Now that our adrenalin levels are up we continue around the rim.  Some of the more intriguing structures are: the Square Tower (a three story structure built on top of a large boulder at the head of the canyon) Boulder House (a structure actually inside of a boulder down in the canyon) and the Hovenweep Castle (at the top edge of the canyon.) Estimates place the population here at around five hundred.

Visiting the other ruins involves 4WD, fortunately Dave is up to the challenge!  The road to Cutthroat Castle passes through the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument and we stop to check out the painted hand in one of the ruins.  (An unexpected surprise!) Cutthroat Castle is impressive as are Holly, Horseshoe and Hackberry.  There is a fine level of craftsmanship in these structures and another five to seven hundred ancients called these home.

Cliff House
Next we’re off to Mesa Verde National Park. It’s a short fifty-mile drive and we score a full hook-up campsite in the park.  We can stay only 3 days as the campground is closing for the season.  Mesa Verde is known for the elaborate cliff dwellings that supported a population of approximately 30,000 people. (To put things in perspective, his is 3X the size of the current population of the area.)  Here we book two ranger-guided tours of the Balcony House and the Cliff Palace.  Both of these tours involve climbing up steep ladders and crawling through tunnels.

Balcony House
 One of our favorite sites is the Spruce Tree House.  Here we can explore on our own.  There are a couple of rangers on site to answer questions and keep folks off the walls. The highlight is climbing down into a kiva, which is surprisingly warm considering the cool temps outside. 
Kiva Interior

All of these structures were built in the last years of the Ancestral Puebloan occupation and deserted shortly thereafter.   There is a lot of speculation as to why these people, after completing these structures, left and migrated south.  The best answer we hear is, “Because it was time."

And now for us, it too is time...

We are even more intrigued with this civilization.... so we head next to Chaco Canyon, the largest and most elaborate collection of ancient structures… and one of the earliest to be abandoned…



Post a Comment

We love to hear from you! Remember to hit post, after you enter your comment. Comments are monitored and spam… well spam never sees the light of day 😜