Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Deserted Valley

That is what Hovenweep means. It is the Paiute word for deserted valley and the name of a national monument in southeastern Utah and southwestern Colorado. We had never heard of it until we came to Cortez last week and today we visited it after moving to Blanding, Utah. It was a long 45-mile drive from Blanding with some rather indistinct signs before we came to the visitor center. But the trip was certainly worth it.

After watching the 18-minute video, we walked 3 miles along a trail around the Square Tower group of ruins around a canyon. While watching the video, we thought we would be viewing the Square Tower ruins, then driving to another canyon to see other ruins. Instead, a 3-mile trail took us to several ruins.

Most of the buildings in this area were built between 1230 and 1275, about the same time as the famous cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. Most of the buildings in Hovenweep contain towers. Archaeologists are not sure if the towers were built as defensive structures or for some other reason.

We were really interested in what we saw today. We have explored many different southwestern prehistoric communities and this was yet another new one that expanded what we know about life in this area over 700 years ago.

This is a view of the canyon at our first viewpoint.  We could see a partial wall right in front of us and the twin towers across the canyon.

This is Hovenweep Castle.  You may be able to tell that the walls are made of double rows of stones.  They would probably have been very strong.

This is a closer look at the round tower that is part of the castle.

And yet another view of the Castle set of buildings.

Down below the canyon rim, we could see Square Tower, which gives it's name to this group of ruins.

Probably the most interesting ruin was Eroded Boulder House, built as the name suggests almost within a cave in an eroded boulder.

Here are two different views of the Round Towers.

This view across the canyon shows how many ruins there are in a small area.  Several hundred people lived in this area. 

The trail ran along the rim of the canyon most of the way. It also went down into the canyon, then back up the other side in its return to the visitor center. We have volunteered in places like this over the past few years and we have a real appreciation for all the work that went into marking these trails, some that cross large rocky areas.

We have found it is always worth or time to visit these National Monuments and even locally-protected ancient settlements. We enjoy them and learn more of the fascinating past of our country.
The monument also has a 30-site campground.  The sites have no water, sewer or electric, but at least some would have accommodated our  big 5th wheel--if we wanted to drive 45 miles along the narrow, remote roads.  Most of the distance was paved, at least.


  1. We've never gone there because of the long drive. I figured we'd seen enough ruins but these are unique with all the towers.

  2. We've never gone there because of the long drive. I figured we'd seen enough ruins but these are unique with all the towers.