Lowrey Pueblo, Canyon of The Ancients National Monument

Monday, August 8, 2022

Canyon of The Ancients is a massive 270,000 acres on the Sagebrush Plains in the southwest corner of Colorado with 30,000 Ancestral Puebloan ruins, and more being found. Humans have been here for 12,000 years. Starting around 750 AD they started farming and building homes, starting with clustered pit houses – round building sunken into the ground and covered with a roof of woven timber with a hole in the top for entrance and exit. It provided warmth in the winter and cool in the summers. 

Their building skills developed to its peak in about 1300. Trade and travel between regions was extensive. Products from Mexico and the west coast have been found. They built towers, storage areas, water diversions, dams and reservoirs. Their basket-making and pottery skills were incredible. They farmed, growing crops of corn, squash and beans unique to this area. By 1300, they had all left the area, going to the Rio Grande areas, where there was water. With large population growth, the land could no longer support them, and mostly because the climate became drier. Some say this explanation is the easy way out.

Anna, a volunteer at the Visitor’s Center, gave us good directions and a plan of how to explore the area. We started by driving from Morefield Campground in the National Forest to Lowrey Pueblo. I was surprised to be driving through beautiful farmland, all made possible by a canal system and giant watering systems. Sound familiar?

Lowrey Pueblo is an impressive area built with thick walls, 40 rooms and a giant Kiva with two stone “summer and winter” figures in the bottom. What is the difference between a pit house and a kiva? As one of our guides said, “about 600 years.” Better construction, bigger with air vents and baffles to circulate the air. Some had windows, but most were sunken in the ground. Sinking these 10 feet into the ground would be difficult today with modern machinery working in this hard, rocky terrain, but how they did it then is pretty amazing. All of these sites are spiritual places for modern Pueblo, Hopi, Navajo and Ute people, all saying, “This is where we came from.” They believe the spirits of those before them are still there.

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