Sunday, February 26, 2012

Road to Hackberry Canyon

The road to Hackberry Canyon is marked as BLM Road 4721 and is located about 5 miles north of the Hovenweep National Monument Headquarters along County Road 10 along the southwest Colorado border with Utah.

This road leads to the outlying Hackberry and Horseshoe Unit Hovenweep ruins sites after about 1 mile and the Holly Unit sites are about 0.8 miles further. This road segment is also part of an established mountain bike loop. This is a bumpy dirt road but is normally drivable by most vehicles.

There is a new Canyons of the Ancients information sign at the junction. On this hike I was looking for Ancestral Pueblo ruins sites that might be near the road but are not usually noticed if you are driving to the publicized Hovenweep sites.

From the information sign I walked for about 5 minutes northeast to the edge of a wide drainage that appears to contribute to the Hackberry Canyon system. There is a pair of rubble pile ruins close to canyon rim. The southern most of the pair is a circular mound that is starting to get overgrown with sage brush.

 The other structure appears to be rectangular with a deep depression between the outside walls. I walked a little further north along the rim but didn’t notice any other structures. There is a variety of small pottery shards around these two structures.

Back on the Hackberry Road heading south, there is an east leading junction after about 0.8 miles. This road has a small sign that says “Dead End.” I turned and followed this road to the back entrance to the Hackberry and Horseshoe Unit. This road is rougher than the main dirt road and crosses the drainage. There is a locked gate at the site entrance but there is a hiker entrance and hikers can find the established trail. I was about 1:00 hour into my hike when I arrived at the Hackberry back entrance.

I would have continued into the Hackberry and Horseshoe Unit but I had spotted a rubble pile site that was about 0:15 minutes of hiking back to the north. This site overlooked the same drainage area as the first site near my starting point and there may be a line of sight between the two ruins villages.
I thought there was a good assortment of black on white pottery shards visible here. In late February, this southern area of the Canyons of the Ancients was snow free and the ground dry while the northern area near Lowry Ruins was still snow covered.

This sagebrush dominated area appeared to have good soil for farming and is warmer but gets less moisture and has less wood resources than the area that is only 10 miles further north. The nearby Holly Unit has a sun calendar petroglyph that may have helped with the tricky business of deciding when to plant the corn.

The area to the west of the Hackberry Canyon Road appears to be a canyon head that connects to Keeley Canyon. I looked in that area on the return hike but didn’t notice any ruins sites on this hike. I noticed that the rocky outcrops in the area had many potholes that catch and hold water. My total hike took 2:30 hours for about 4 miles. I carried 2 liters of water on a 50 F degree late February day.

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