Sunday, April 11, 2010

Yellowjacket Canyon East Rim Round Tower

Yellowjacket Canyon is one of the major features in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. There is access to the central part of Yellowjacket along the BLM road that is 20 miles west of Cortez, CO along County Road G. Yellowjacket in this area has a broad flat bottoms area with deep soil and a stream that runs for most of the year.

I started my hike 4.6 miles along the BLM road at a point where there is a short ATV trail to the left leading to a rocky hill that provides a good view into the canyon bottom. The main road continues into the canyon bottom, but is blocked by a locked gate and a private property sign. I hiked north along the east rim following small drainages and deer trails, working toward a rocky point that extended toward the middle of the canyon. This route stays on the National Monument land.

Toward the end of the rocky point there is a circular tower ruins structure that sits on the edge of a cliff, but not on the mesa top. It is about halfway to the bottoms area. It seems to be an isolated structure with a good view down the canyon to the south. It can be sighted with binoculars from the top of the large pueblo site that is about 1 mile away, down the canyon. There is a layer of cliffs to get through to get down to the layer holding the tower. It looked like the easiest way down was to continue past the tower toward the end of the rocky point.

The tower is so close to the cliff edge that it is impossible to get a view from the front, only side and back views are available. There are side channels flowing into the Yellowjacket Creek that are deeply cut, showing how deep the soil is here. I didn’t see any pottery shards around this site or any rock art nearby. Tower structures are common in this region but the use of them is a mystery. This one seems to be positioned as a lookout and there is a line of sight connection down canyon, but not up canyon.

Climbing back to the mesa top and looking up canyon, there is a rocky hill that appears as an island in the otherwise flat canyon bottom. With binoculars a ruins site on top of the hill can be clearly viewed, mostly rubble with a few small wall sections standing. This site would be easy to visit if it wasn’t on the private property. To the east of the small hill, there is a rock outcrop with some small alcoves. It looked like there might be a storage ruin in one of the alcoves.

Further up the canyon, there are irrigated hay fields and a large ranch house. I couldn’t spot any more ruins structures along the east rim from the tower area. I spent 3:00 hours on this hike of about 4 miles. It was a 65 F degree early April day and I carried and drank 2 liters of water.

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