Sunday, March 18, 2012

Burro Canyon Southeast

The access to the Burro Canyon area of the Canyons of the Ancients is along the west extension of County Road N, northwest of Cortez in southwest Colorado. About 1.2 miles west of the north trailhead of the popular Sand Canyon Trail, the road there is a sign marking the re-entrance to the Canyons of the Ancients.

I started hiking at the sign and started north into the Pinon Pine and Juniper forest, looking at the hilltops and a long side canyon that leads north to Yellowjacket Canyon.

I worked west slowly and eventually came across a small Ancestral Pueblo ruins site that overlooks the main road about 0.8 miles west of where I started. Along the road there is a cattle guard with a vague trail leading uphill along a fence. I stated to see pottery shards about 100 yards up this trail and followed the clues uphill to find the rubble pile.
I didn’t see any intact walls but the locations of these sites are usually interesting. This site is in a sunny location at a relative high point and has a rocky outcrop as a foundation.

I saw what looked like a small display of stone tools. These rocks all have sharp edges or sharp points and appear to use several different minerals. Small arrays of pottery shards are common around these seldom visited sites but stone tool displays are unusual. I don’t know for sure that these are tools but they look like they could be. I looked around this area for a total of 2:45 hours before returning to my vehicle and moving further down the road. If you start in the right place, this site can be hiked to in only a few minutes.

The main road makes a sharp turn to the right about 1.7 miles west of the Canyons of the Ancients entry sign. Just before this turn there is an easy to miss overgrown old road that runs parallel to the main road for about 1 mile and then rejoins.

About 100 yards down this old road there is an overgrown rubble pile ruins site. It appears that this segment of road was re-routed to avoid this and another similar site that is about 10 minutes of walking further.
The second site is so overgrown that no rubble is visible from the old road. The clues for this site are that sagebrush growth seems to be mounded and there are some vague pottery shards along the road. Pushing into the brush, there appear to be several rubble pile structures. This site appears to be larger than the one that is closer to the main road. There are more old roads to explore further west along the south side of Burro Canyon.

In March 2012 there is some gas well drilling visible on the north side of Burro Canyon and some pipeline installation in progress. The Canyons of the Ancients sits over a large reservoir of Carbon Dioxide that is piped mainly to west Texas and aids in oil recovery. The road improvements that aid the gas well activity also aid access to these interesting backcountry canyon areas. I spent about 1:00 hour on this short side road to the two rubble pile sites on a 60 F degree mid March day.

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