Hovenweep National Monument has its own Visitor’s Center and a nice campground. This is a unique area, because the ancient ruins are concentrated in a small canyon that you can walk around on a 2-mile path. It has some unique structures, a castle-like building right on the edge of the cliff, a square tower built in the valley by one of two creeks that once fed this area. I wondered if this could have been an ingenious water tower. Two structures have giant boulders for roofs. Then there is a twin tower building on the edge of the cliff with tiny doors leading in.
The people were small, so they didn’t need big openings. This was all before doors were made, so they didn’t want to let the warmth out or the cold in. Their windows were small holes. I envisioned waterfalls fed by the two streams that are now bone dry. I wondered if all the modern diversion of water and irrigation could be affecting these stream beds.
Ute Mountain is called Sleeping Ute Warrior, who came to fight evil forces. He won the battle, but laid down to rest and fell asleep. A river flows from his wounds. He will come back one day to fight the evil forces again. There are several mountains that are both sacred to the Indians and guides to travel – Ute Mountain, San Francisco Peak and Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
We drove back to the Canyon of The Ancients Visitor’s Center. We had been there on Sunday, but it was closed. The building is beautiful with indigenous plants and flowers around a courtyard resembling a great Kiva. The inside is impressive, a combination museum and visitor’s center. There are pictures and artwork showing how life might have been. There is a Kiva showing how these might have been used. Relics are displayed throughout a huge room. Beautiful baskets, pots, tools, bows, arrows and arrowheads were on display. A bank of drawers demonstrated all the plants and how they were used, The yucca amazed me the most.
It was getting late, and we were both on overload after watching two short movies, but we knew there was an ancient site behind the Center. We climbed up the hill on a paved, winding to find a cool ruin sitting on top of the hill with spectacular views. Now the large McPhee Reservoir sits below. It was only about 85 degrees, but the western sun is hot. Clear skies and altitude make it more intense.
We drove 17 miles back to Bradfield Campground where there was only one other camper. The Dolores River runs through it. This is a popular white water run through a canyon. With a Senior Pass it only costs $4/night, and the stars are the most amazing we have seen.