After visiting Hovenweep, Tom and I continued on to Colorado where we visited Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Because Canyons of the Ancients is a Bureau of Land Management Monument, it is open to various uses. National Park Monuments are much more restrictive.
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument encompasses 170,000 acres bordering Hovenweep but all in Colorado. The monument protects thousands of Ancestral Puebloan ruins, but it also allows hiking, cattle grazing, horseback riding, oil and gas development, and hunting. Primitive and dispersed camping is allowed on most of the land.
We drove through a lot of the Monument and stopped for a few pictures. But, after a while, one Ancestral Puebloan ruin looks pretty much like another. We decided to take a direct route to Dolores and the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum.
The Visitors Center is staffed by volunteers who were a lot friendlier than the ranger at Hovenweep. There is a small charge to get in ($3 per person) but the charge is waived if you have a National Parks pass. We watched a movie that reminded us to treat the land and the artifacts with respect and told us more about the Ancestral Puebloans in the area. We spent some time in the museum, which had the best explanation of the Ancestral Puebloan people we have seen at any of the sites. It clearly described the different time periods and the kinds of building during those time periods. Also, instead of saying that these people just vanished, the museum explained how the Hopi and Zuni are descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans.
Behind the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center is the Escalante Pueblo, built during the 1100s. We walked up the hill to the Pueblo and enjoyed the view that the ancient ones would have enjoyed. A reservoir built in the 1980s covered up a lot of the land around the area. Fortunately archaeologists came in and removed artifacts before the land flooded. Today the reservoir is mostly empty from ongoing drought. The Pueblo had 28 rooms surrounding a kiva – a circular room used for ceremonial purposes.
We thought the Visitors Center was one of the best we have seen dealing with the ancient Puebloans. It should be the starting place of any exploration of the Puebloans in the area. Understanding how different stages of their culture evolved is important in understanding the ruins you see.