Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lower Yellow Jacket Canyon at Ismay

The Yellow Jacket Canyon makes a junction with McElmo Canyon 26 miles west of Cortez along County Road G near the border of Colorado and Utah. Yellow Jacket Canyon Road is a rough trail that turns north at the old Ismay Trading Post along the west flank of Cannonball Mesa. This area is the southwest corner of the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

There is an unpublicized ruins site with petroglyphs only 0.2 miles along the rough road. About 0.1 mile past the ruins site there is a side road that leads left  toward the Yellow Jacket Creek.

The side road cuts through the thick Willow, Cottonwood and Tamarisk riparian habitat along the creek to an easy hiker crossing point. In late August there was about 1 foot depth of water and a fairly swift flow. There was a surprising amount of water here considering how dry the surrounding landscape is and that 2012 has been a relatively dry year. I carried river sandals to make this crossing.

After the crossing, there are cow trails to follow toward the mesa area that is about 1 mile to the northwest. This area is very vegetation free and walking is easy. 

With binoculars, a small ruins site is visible on a ledge one layer of cliffs below the mesa top. I had sighted this ruin on a previous hike from the east side of Yellow Jacket Creek.

I didn’t see an easy way to get on the ledge, but the ruins can be viewed from several angles. From the left side, there is a large front wall that is visible from a long distance and a smaller wall section perched above it.

From the right side, there is another wall section with a small doorway. I didn't see any other structures associated with this ruin.

On the right side, it looks like hand and toe holds lead to the mesa top. I didn’t try to climb up there but there must have been a mesa top route on top to get to this structure.

Looking back at lower Yellow Jacket Canyon, the ruins site close to Ismay is visible as is the Cannonball Mesa top. Slightly to the north, there is a ruins site that overlooks the junction of Hovenweep and Yellow Jacket Canyon that is not visible from here. It took me 1:00 hour to arrive at the ruins site starting from close to the creek crossing. The slow part is climbing up the slope.

The return hike took 1:15 as I walked north a little more are scanned up the canyons with binoculars. My total time was 2:30 hours on an 85 F degree late August day. On a warm day I carried and drank 2 liters of water.

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