Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cannonball Mesa Cliffs Southwest

The southwest corner of Cannonball Mesa has a rocky point above high cliffs that overlooks the Ismay Pueblo and Petroglyph site. This area is on the southwest side of the Canyons of the Ancients area in southwest Colorado. The access is about 26 miles west of Cortez, CO along County Road G. A short distance east of the point, there is a south turnoff that leads to the Hamilton Mesa area.

On the north side of County Road G, across from the turnoff, there is a short unmarked trail that climbs toward the south side cliffs. On a shelf area below the cliffs, the Ismay ruins site has a boulder based neighbor. This site is visible from the mesa top point, but isn’t visible from the road.

The boulder forms something of a rock shelter with a constructed room in front. There are remains of other rooms around the west side also.

From the backside there views of the wall segments on top of the boulder. The overall site is bigger than it appears at first. More rubble is behind the boulder and there are minor structures spread across the hillside. This terrain and environment here appears to be very dry but it is near the junction of McElmo Creek and Yellowjacket Creek, both with flowing water most of the year. The Cannonball Mesa area has several more ruins sites to search for.

On the east side of the boulder there is a petroglyph panel. I haven’t seen much rock art in the Canyons of the Ancients except here in the Cannonball Mesa area.

Some of the other nearby boulders have minor images also. There is a roadside boulder a short distance west of the trailhead that has easy to view rock art, but it is somewhat vandalized with recent graffiti. Some of the rock faces up above have initials inscriptions with dates from the 1930s.

I spent 1:20 hours visiting this site on an 82 F degree late September afternoon. The hiking distance is very short; most time is spent exploring the area. The Ismay Pueblo and Petroglyph site is just a short distance further west. It is probably possible to continue to the mesa top from this site. From the mesa top view I saw a notch in the cliffs above the ruins that can be hiked, but I thought it would be easier to visit from the road.

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