After we visited Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, we continued along USFS 545. This is the scenic loop drive from Sunset Crater to Wupatki National Monument. Even though the two sites are different, they are connected by this road and by their history and importance to the area.
Wupatki National Monument contains dozens of preserved pueblos built by the ancient Puebloan people who lived in the region about 1,000 years ago. Wupatki became a national monument in 1924, preserving three large Puebloan villages and the remains of 29 other Puebloan structures. This area was a regional trade center for the indigenous people of the time. Trade goods from all over North America have been found during archaeological studies.
Because we were coming from Sunset Crater, Tom and I stopped first at Wukoki Pueblo. This Pueblo looks more like a castle than a traditional kiva. The amazing views allowed the people who lived there to see for miles in every direction. Unfortunately we visited at the same time as a “selfish selfie couple.” These are the people who aren’t really interested in seeing the monument, but only interested in taking pictures of themselves at the monument. I will stand aside and wait patiently for a picture or two, then I tromp right through any pictures they are taking. Tom and I checked out the viewpoints and walked around the pueblo.
Our second stop in Wupatki was the Visitors Center and Wupatki Pueblo. The Visitors Center was small, but did a good job talking about the various people who have lived in the pueblos. The first National Park Service ranger to live at the monument lived in the second story of the pueblo! I also liked the sign in the Visitors Center calling it “argue-ology.” It reminded me of a post on my favorite archaeologist’s Facebook page (Michael Seibert, our boss at Fort Frederica).
After looking at the Visitors Center we walked abound the Pueblo, more like a town than a house. The people who lived here harvested rainwater for their use. They had a large and elaborate cistern system. We saw rooms used for work, food storage, and fire pits for food preparation. Seeing such a large and well-preserved pueblo up close was very interesting. Part of the path was closed for repairs but we could still see things from a distance.
We finished our visit to Wupatki National Monument by visiting the Nalakihu and Citadel Pueblos. These are not as large or elaborate as the Wupatki and Wukoki Pueblos. But still plenty interesting.
We enjoyed our visit to Wupatki National Monument. It was a nice chance to stretch our legs after a long cross-country drive.