Friday, December 10, 2010

Yellowjacket Canyon near Woods Canyon

Yellowjacket Canyon is one of the largest of the rugged Canyons of the Ancients in southwest Colorado. There is an access to the north rim along the extension of County Road 14, south of County Road U. This area is west of the community of Yellowjacket, northwest of Cortez, CO along highway 491.

From the trailhead area near the Carbon Dioxide Gas Plant  into Woods Canyon at Roads 14 and U, I continued driving south for 2.3 miles to a point where there are views along the north rim of Yellowjacket Canyon. The well maintained gravel road continues for about one mile to several carbon dioxide gas wells. I started hiking west along the canyon rim, parallel to the road.

Yellowjacket Canyon is oriented east and west in this area and is very deep and wide with a flat canyon bottom. There is a meandering creek along the floor. In some areas the Yellowjacket Canyon floor is still private property with farming operations. I was hiking slowly, stopping frequently to scan with binoculars for Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites.
After about 1:00 hour, but only about 0.6 miles I came across a rubble pile site that was about 50 feet back from the rim. Many of these sites sit on the rim and spill over the edge, but this one was more of a mesa top site. I didn’t spot any ruins sites below the rim or near the canyon floor.

This site looked like it had at least two large rubble pile structures and a large circular depression and some perimeter walls. Not much has held together above ground, but it looks like a fairly large site.

I continued west for about another 0.5 miles to a view point. I turned around at the view point, but there is about another mile of mesa top out to a rocky cap that overlooks the junction of Yellowjacket Canyon and the unnamed side canyon to the north. There is a rough trail  that continues along the mesa top.

On the return hike, I followed the rough trail back east to where it connects with the end of the maintained gravel road. Before that junction I found another mesa top site, somewhat smaller than the previous one. There were at least two rubble piles at this site, both overgrown with sagebrush and trees. My return hike only took about 0:30 minutes out of total hike of 2:30 hours for about 2 miles. I hiked on a mild 46 F degree early December day.

 Two days later I returned to the same area and continued on the rough  trail to the rocky cap overlooking the point where Yellowjacket Canyon makes a bend to the southwest. I started at the end of the well maintained gravel road, and re-hiked the first 0.5 miles of ATV trail, passing the second ruins site again. At the end of the point, about 1.5 miles of hiking, a little past the rocky outcrop, there are good views down Yellowjacket Canyon.

I saw one small ruins site along the south facing canyon rim a short distance before the rocky outcrop. The rocky outcrop itself appeared to have a small shelter ruin with a small wall fragment. I spent 2:20 hours on this segment of hiking of about 3 miles. (There are several other ruins sites in this area. Use the Yellow Jacket Canyon labels.)

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