During our fall tour of the National Parks of Southern Utah, we spent a night in Bluff. We checked into an RV park to secure a space and then hit the road for Hovenweep. We figured there was enough daylight left to explore the park. Hovenweep was a place Mary Colter spent time. She studied the structures in preparation for designing and building the Watchtower at Desert View on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We were walking in Mary’s footsteps.
Here are a few words from the National Park Service about this park tucked in near the border of Utah and Colorado.
The first historic reports of the abandoned structures at Hovenweep were made by W.D. Huntington, the leader of a Mormon expedition into southeast Utah in 1854. The name “Hovenweep” is a Paiute/Ute word meaning “Deserted Valley” which was adopted by pioneer photographer William Henry Jackson in 1874. In 1917-18, J.W. Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution surveyed the area and recommended the structures be protected. On March 2, 1923, President Warren G. Harding proclaimed Hovenweep a unit of the National Park System.
Most of the structures at Hovenweep were built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. There is quite a variety of shapes and sizes, including square and circular towers, D-shaped dwellings and many kivas. The masonry at Hovenweep is as skillful as it is beautiful. Even the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde rarely exhibit such careful construction and attention to detail. Some structures built on irregular boulders remain standing after more than 700 years.
There is an easy two mile loop trail that takes you by the Square Tower Group. We knew it was all we had time to do. There are roads, which require high clearance vehicles, to explore additional parts of the Monument. However, our RV didn’t fit the description. When we drive that wagon on dirt trails we hear the sound of dollars leaving our checking account!!
These houses were created on an outcropping closer to the valley floor. The opening allowed observation for security and there was great protection from the elements.
Here is the Square Tower. It too was built in the canyon. How many people called this place home?
The people were smaller back then, plus the size of the doors would provide protection from the elements. You wonder if this dwelling separated from the rim over time or if there was a small bridge to access it. How long did it take to find, haul, shape and build the stones into a home. The structures have endured hundreds of years.
The beautiful curvature of the walls. You can see this reproduced at the Watchtower.
A look across the canyon to buildings on the other side.
Slowly melting into the earth. What would be left if we didn’t protect it?
You can see the details of construction. All done with crude tools and amazing minds.
The Hovenweep farmers built check dams. They were used to hold back runoff water that would carry fine soil off the bedrock. The dams and catch basins provided water for hand watering small areas of crops. The park service info suggests it would require one to two acres to grow enough food to support one person per year.
Could these be some of their catch basins?
The sun was falling and we had over an hour drive back to the RV park to set up for the evening. It was worth the trip. Now that we have a Jeep, we need to go back and explore the back country. Time to start planning our 2016 trips.
Have you been to Hovenweep? If yes, would appreciate hearing your comments. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and visit with me today.