Monday, March 28, 2011

Goodman Point Pueblo and Goodman Lake

The Goodman Point Ruins Group of Hovenweep National Monument is a mostly unpublicized site in the vicinity of the north end of the Sand Canyon Trail in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. 

Goodman Point was the first site in the country to receive protection, withdrawn from homesteading in 1889. In 1951 it was added to Hovenweep National Monument, though the other Hovenweep sites are many miles to the west.

The site has a good sign but it is down the trail and not visible to those driving by. There are hints that there might be something here. In summer, there may be portable rest rooms that don't have an apparent reason for being there.

There are two entrances through the fence into the site along County Road P between Roads 17 and 18 northwest of Cortez in southwest Colorado. The site fence has some tiny NPS signs that are also a clue that there is something here. In 2012 a small parking area has been constructed next to the east entrance, making this entrance more obvious.

The Goodman Point Unit consists of 42 different sites. In April 2006, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center began a six year project to examine these sites. The easiest site to view is the main pueblo site on the east side of the unit.

In 2008 many of the rubble piles had trenches cut into them, string lines placed, sandstone bricks neatly stacked and piles of excavated soil resting on plastic sheeting. The trenches were all covered with custom fitted doors, but in spring 2011 this activity appeared to be mostly finished.

Entering at the east entrance and following the trail to the head of the canyon, there are two short trails on each side of the drainage leading to the numerous rubble pile sites.

.In the drainage area there is the Juarez spring that is thought to yield 2800 gallons per day, enough water for the 500-800 residents thought to have lived here. The environment here is Pinon Pine and Juniper forest with sage brush mixed in. 

There are very large rubble piles on both sides of the trail. The short brochure has a map of the site showing the locations of towers, kivas, and the village enclosing walls. I didn't see any intact wall sections but the amount of rubble is enormous. Goodman Point Pueblo seems to have a high number of Kivas, maybe more than 100 for the 500-800 residents.

Along with the Sand Canyon Pueblo, this is one of the largest pueblo sites in the area, and it is interesting that Sand Canyon and Goodman Canyon are adjacent. The site enclosing walls are reasonably easy to pick out, long and low structures on the east end and also along the north side.

The site map shows a great kiva on the south side of the canyon. Although the rubble piles are confusing for amateurs, there is a large circular area with a depression in the center that is reasonably recognizable. I walked around this large area for about 2:00 hours on a 44 F degree late March day.

Goodman Lake Hike

Goodman Lake is thought to be an Ancestral Pueblo reservoir and it is associated with the Goodman Point Pueblo. It is about 0.5 miles to the south but the direct route from the Pueblo is blocked by a strip of private land.

On the east boundary of the Goodman Point Unit of Hovenweep Monument there is a 0.5 mile strip of Canyons of the Ancients Monument. This strip of Ancients allows for a hiking route around the private property.

I followed the trail that is on the north side of the Goodman Point Pueblo to the east side fence and then followed the fence line south. On the south side of the private property I continued west while staying close to the fence. There is a minor drainage to cross. After crossing, there is a large sandstone outcrop with a berm at the east end. Recent historic ranchers may have dredged and enlarged the existing ancient reservoir.

It took me about 0:45 minutes to arrive at the reservoir from the east end of the Goodman Point Pueblo. It is thought that Ancestral Pueblo farmers used this reservoir in the centuries before the construction of the main pueblo. There is also water in this area from the small Mona spring but I didn't see where it is located. During my late October visit the reservoir was dry.

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cannonball Cliffs to Yellow Jacket Creek

The north cliffs of Cannonball Mesa overlook the lower section of Yellowjacket Canyon in the southwest part of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. The west end of Cannonball Mesa is 26 miles west of Cortez, CO on County Road G to the rough Yellowjacket Canyon Road at Ismay Trading Post.

The unmarked cow trail that provides an easy route to the top of Cannonball is 1.4 miles north along the rough road. At the top I turned left or north, and continued along the rim, past a narrow northwest point to an overlook of a boulder based Ancestral Pueblo ruins site. Slightly to the east, there is a notch in the cliffs that allows a descent down the slope.

I had spotted this site on a previous hike along the Cannonball Mesa Cliffs. The notch has several easy to view petroglyphs near the rim. It took me 0:45 minutes to arrive at the notch.

The hike down the slope is somewhat slippery but feasible. The best routes are often easier to see looking up the slope rather than down. At the ruins site, there are some minor wall sections still in place around the edges on top and much rubble has tumbled down on the south side.

 I didn’t see any other structures around the boulder. From this site it is an easy walk down toward the canyon bottom and the flowing creek and there are many other large boulders in the vicinity.

One of the large boulders about 100 yards to the west has a clearly visible horse image sitting above a faint but larger horse. This panel faces the canyon bottom area.

At the canyon bottom there is a continuation of the Yellowjacket Canyon road, but direct access is blocked by private property. This section of the canyon bottom is part of the Canyons of the Ancients for about 1 mile. Many other segments of Yellowjacket Canyon bottom are private property.

I followed the old road, walking slowly and scanning the opposite side with binoculars. In about 20 minutes of direct walking, the road leads to the creek and dead ends. I didn’t spot any ruins sites in the creek area, but they are often hard to see from a distance. During my hike, there was an old backhoe parked at the end of the road.

I was 3:10 hours into my hike when I arrived back at the ruins site on my return hike. I saw a few alcoves high to the west and wanted to see if there was another route to this area. When I climbed to a ridge below the alcoves I had a major surprise. (Go to the next post for the surprise.) Otherwise, my total hike took 4:10 hours on a 60 F degree partly cloudy and windy mid March day. I carried and drank 2 liters of water for about 5 miles of hiking.

Hovenweep and Yellowjacket Junction

The northwest corner of Cannonball Mesa overlooks the junction of Yellowjacket and Hovenweep Canyons in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, near Ismay Trading Post in southwest Colorado.

After visiting a small ruins site along the north Cannonball Cliffs rim hiking route I looked for an alternate route back to the mesa top.

I was so stunned when I came over a small ridge that I gasped aloud. Besides being surprised by this ruins, this site has an impressive location that sits with a perfect view down Yellowjacket Canyon and up Hovenweep Canyon.

 There are many boulder based ruins sites in the Canyons of the Ancients, but this one seems to be perched on a perfect cube and has several clearly visible rooms.

I saw one large petroglyph image on the boulder foundation and a small spiral. I could see the Yellowjacket Canyon road and my parked car from this site. It is visible with binoculars from down below, but is hidden when hiking along the rim. I didn’t find an easier return route than the way I came.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Risley Canyon Trail

Risley Canyon is a tributary to Yellowjacket Canyon in the south central part of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. The trail head that I used is 3.4 miles north on the BLM road that is about 20 miles west of Cortez, CO along County Road G. At this starting point, high on the south side of Risley, there is a rough road leading east.

This point is north of the starting points for hikes to the Cannonball Mesa Pueblo site and the Lucy’s Warbler habitat area. The Lucy’s Warbler hike is west along the south rim of Risley Canyon to its junction with Yellowjacket Canyon. After about 20 minutes of hiking east, there is a junction with a left turn that pushes into the central area of upper Risley Canyon.

After about 1:00 hour of slow hiking, with a lot of scanning with binoculars, I spotted a large boulder outcrop in the center of the canyon area with some rubble on top. There are vague ATV tracks that lead down toward the boulder site, making it easy to walk to. It looks like there was a lookout structure on top of the boulder.
Not visible from a distance are all the structures on the south side. Many of these Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites would be easily missed in the forest if it weren’t for the rubble that is frequently on the tops of large boulders. A circular structure on the southeast side is protected under a small overhang.

There are additional wall sections to the left of the circular structure and built into other rocks in the vicinity. The pottery shards visible here are mostly the corrugated style.

From this site I hiked north a short distance to the cliffs on the north rim of Risley. I didn’t see any more ruins sites, but there are good views back toward the boulders and the surrounding area. Rather than return the same way I came, I hiked west, gradually descending down the drainage until I arrived at the main BLM road.

My total hike in Risley Canyon took 3:30 hours for about 4 miles. I carried and drank 2 liters of water on a 60 F degree mid March day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cannonball Mesa Point

Cannonball Mesa Point overlooks the Ismay Pueblo and Petroglyph site along the southwest side of the Canyons of the Ancients area in southwest Colorado. This area is about 26 miles west of Cortez, CO along County Road G, then about 0.2 miles north on the rough Yellowjacket Canyon road.

I started my hike 1.4 miles northeast along the rough Yellowjacket Canyon road and followed a cow trail to the top of the mesa. The cow trail isn’t marked but is reasonably obvious and the climbing is easy. It took me 20 minutes to get to the rim where I turned right, back southwest toward the point. At the top, I startled a group of cows that were lounging there. I followed the rim along the cliffs overlooking the mouth of Yellowjacket Canyon.

Near the point there is a new looking protective barbed wire fence and a short distance beyond there is an ancient zig zag rock wall that encloses the point, about 300 yards from the tip. It took me 0:45 minutes of hiking to arrive at the rock wall.

On the south end there is a circular structure tied into the wall. Also at the south end there are views over McElmo Canyon and County Road G. This is one of the better view points that can be found in the region.

Between the rock wall and the point, particularly on the north side, there are several rectangular outlines made of flat slab rocks turned vertically. Mesa Verde National Park has some excavated and interpreted sites similar to these on the Mesa Top self guiding tour and also on the Badger House Trail. The information there says that the transition from pit houses to pueblo villages featured shallow slab lined pits supporting a frame and lattice of wooden poles that were plastered over with mud.

In later eras, the wooden structures were replaced with stone masonry. The Mesa Verde Interpretation suggests that there may have been a shortage of wood, or that disastrous fires prompted the change. The date of this style is given as 850 AD. I also noticed a large circular depression that was outlined with similar rocks.

There is also a Mesa Verde interpretive sign describing small stone lined food storage structures, maybe like this.

The rocky tip of the point has quite a few potholes in the sandstone that catch and hold quite a bit of water. There is water available for this site in the canyon bottoms below from the flowing creeks, but none near the mesa top point other than these natural storage tanks.

The mesa top area is dry rocky terrain with a few Juniper trees and desert shrubs and grasses. From this water storage area, there are also views overlooking the pueblo site that is near the Ismay Trading Post.
Looking south near the south end of the zig zag wall, there is a boulder perched structure between the cliffs and County Road G. I only viewed this structure from the rim. I lingered on the point for 1:15 hours and the return hike took 0:50 minutes for a total hike of 2:50 hours for about 3 miles. I carried and drank 2 liters of water on a 52 F degree early March day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Cannonball Mesa Cliffs

The west end of Cannonball Mesa has impressive cliffs that overlook the rough Yellowjacket Canyon road at the junction of Yellowjacket and McElmo Canyons. This area is on the southwest side of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado. Follow County Road G about 26 miles west of Cortez, CO to the Ismay Trading Post and turn north.

I started my hike about 0.25 miles northeast on the rough dirt road below the Ismay Petroglyph and Pueblo site that is based on a large boulder. I hiked along the road for about 1 more mile until I found a cow trail that leads to the rim in an area where the cliffs are not so impossible looking. From where I started, it took me about 0:25 minutes to find the trail and another 0:25 minutes to get to the rim. The road is rough but it is possible to drive to the cow trail.

At the canyon rim I turned left and followed the rim northeast for about 1 mile. There is a narrow finger of a point and then the rim turns east. In the east segment near the point, I spotted a boulder based ruins site well below the rim. I didn’t climb down to view it closer, but did look closer at the petroglyphs that were close to the rim. I was 1:10 hours into my hike when I stopped to view these images.

Another 30 minutes of hiking brought me to the neck that separates the east and west portions of Cannonball Mesa. The large Cannonball Mesa Pueblo site is on the east side of the neck, approximately 2 more miles of hiking. I turned around at the neck overlook point.

The Cannonball Mesa top is relatively dry compared to the mesas to the north. Juniper trees are few and scattered, with other plants including Mormon Tea, Cliff Rose, Narrowleaf Yucca, Prickly Pear Cactus, and desert grasses. I saw a few cows grazing up here and it looks like most visitors arrive on horseback.

Parts of the floor of Yellowjacket Canyon are privately owned, but in this east and west section there appears to be a 1 mile stretch of canyon bottom that is part of the Canyons of the Ancients. There is a faint road below, but I didn’t see any other development. The area visible here has a broad flat bottom and the creek has flowing water most of the year and there is good riparian habitat. I scanned the area with binoculars and didn’t spot any other ruins sites but they are not always visible from a distance.

The return hike took 1:30 hours out of a total hike of 3:10 hours for about 6 miles. My hike was on a 58 F degree early March day and carried and drank 2 liters of water.