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USATourist News Magazine

May 2007

In this issue:

The Four Corners and surrounding Indian Ruins

A couple of months ago we highlighted some of the attractions in Utah including Arches National Park, Moab, Canyon Country, and Canyonlands National Park. This month we are visiting an area only a few hours away from those natural attractions. Utah's southeastern corner meets with three other states: Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. This intersection is called the Four Corners and is the only spot in the United States where four states come together. There is a special granite and brass monument that allows visitors to "be in all four states" at one time. This monument is located 40 miles (67 km) southwest of Cortez, Colorado on Navajo Nation lands just west of US highway 160. The young and old alike have fun here as they attempt to get creative in their quest to touch all four states.

While visiting the Four Corners is a fun geography lesson the area also holds hundreds, even thousands, of years of history specifically to several different ancient Indian groups who have called this area home. Some of these tribes include the Anasazi, Mogollon, Hohokam, Sinagua, and Salado. Although many of the tribes abandoned the area many years ago they left a variety of discoveries for the modern day explorer to find. Village ruins, monuments, cliff dwellings, and artifacts are just some of the remnants that tell the stories of the Ancient Indians who once lived in the Four Corners area. Some of the clues left behind put human habitation in the area over 10,000 years ago.

Located north of the Four Corners, on the Utah and Colorado border is the isolated Hovenweep National Monument, where several preserved Puebloan-era villages and unexplained towers stand. These original structures vary in shapes and sizes and are guessed to be over 700 years old. The structures purposes are assumed to range from ceremonial to defensive purposes. About 45 miles (72 km) east of the Hovenweep Monument you will find the most famous of the Indian ruins, the Mesa Verde Ruins. This location was home to the Ancestral Pueblo people. There are over 600 preserved cliff dwellings and several thousand archeological sites. Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in the Mesa Verde Ruins as well as the largest in North America. South of Mesa Verde, still in Colorado, is Ute Mountain Tribal Park. Here visitors can see Ancestral Pueblo petroglyphs and Ute pictographs panels. Also in Colorado, about 65 (105 km) miles southeast of Mesa Verde, is Chimney Rock, a San Juan National Forest Archaeological Area surrounded by the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. The ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians made their home here. Chimney Rock is named for the two huge sandstone spires that stand erected on top of a hill. Every 18.6 years the moon rises between the two spirals, experts assume the lunar pattern is the reason the Anasazi built their village and "Great House" where they did. This is a great year to visit. 2007 has several upcoming events July through November because it is the last year of this Major Lunar Standstill three year season.

Sunset Crater Volcano and Montezuma’s Castle

The Aztec National Monument is located in New Mexico 42 miles (68 km) south of Chimney Rock, Colorado. The three story "Great House" is longer than a football field and took 30 years to complete. The building of the Great House is said to have started back around 1100 A.D but the village was evacuated around 1300, most likely due to a drought, the most common reason the Indian villages were abandoned. Traveling into Arizona, at the end of State Highway 564 and off of US Highway 160 is Navajo National Monument where visitors can view three preserved cliff dwellings left by the Ancestral Puebloan people. As you continue your travels into north-central Arizona you will continue to find breathtaking scenery and stunning sunsets. The Grand Canyon is located in this area and south of there is Flagstaff then Sedona. On the way to Sedona travelers have the option of stopping to view Sunset Crater Volcano located 12 miles (19 km) northeast of Flagstaff (not to be confused with the nearby Meteor Crater, located in Winslow, Arizona). Sunset Crater has a history of eruptions that forced the local Sinagua Indians to leave for a while. Eventually, they did return but were eventually forced out again because of a drought. If you continue south past Sedona, about 50 miles (80 km) south of Flagstaff, you will find the five-story, 20-room Montezuma’s Castle that sits in the cliff above Beaver Creek's flood plain. These are also the remains of the Sinagua tribe built in the 14th and 15th centuries.

There is so much to explore in the Four Corners area and four states. The things mentioned here are just a few of what this fascinating part of the country has to offer. You can easily spend several weeks on a road trip, so consider planning on taking your time in while visiting these parts. Here are a few links with photos of the ruins and additional information to help you plan your trip:

Mesa Verde
Chimney Rock:
Ute Mountain Tribal Park
Sunset Crater:
Montezuma Castle

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That's it for the May edition. Happy travels!

Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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