Arch Canyon Ruins

This is a short photo essay about remote ruins in the Cedar Mesa area of Southern Utah. Many people have never visited an Anasazi site, let alone a remote site. I thought I would try to give readers an idea about what it is like to visit such a site.

This is an overview of the ruins. They are located along the first big ledge on the canyon wall. You need to look closely to see them in there, but there are some 40+ structures and rooms in the complex – some of them intact, and some of them mostly gone.

The main ledge can only be accessed from one side, and the only way down to the ledge is the ramp you can see on the far canyon wall. In the foreground is a wall whose only purpose could be defense. The piled stones were likely used to fill the gap if intruders were seen. Note the peep holes in the wall on the far right. Also note that the only way down across the canyon was easily observable from the whole of the ruin complex. Most of the structures, and all of the important structures in the complex, were located behind this defensive wall. Like many Anasazi ruins, this one was located in a place that could be easily and heavily defended. Clearly, these people were highly threatened with attack. This particular ruins complex takes defense to another level.

This is the view downcanyon from the ruins complex. Any products of farming done on the canyon floor below is a very long way from the where people lived and where people stored food in the granaries in the complex. The mesa top above is (and was) too dry for farming. This place of habitation was situated where it is because of an obsession with security. Everything else was secondary. Life was made much harder because of the location. Was the complex only inhabited during the winter, maybe making a little more sense, or year round? The structures are silent on this matter.

After passing through the defensive wall, this is the first sign you see. A Kiva is a ceremonial structure used for worship. They are still used by some Native Americans today. You can Google or Wikipedia Kivas if you are interested in knowing more about them. Very few Kivas are intact. This one still has a roof, which makes it relatively rare.

The inside of the Kiva. Usually they are accessed through a window in the roof with a ladder, but the outer wall of this one has fallen open. The shelves were used for ceremonial objects like Kachina dolls, if I am remembering right.

The scientists have been here long before, and were a bit overzealous, in my opinion. It looks like they took several samples from every roof timber in the kiva, replacing the bore holes with numbered tags. Do all of us subsequent visitors really need to know the sample numbers from some long-forgotten paper written about the age of the roof timbers in this kiva? No, we do not. Probably from a different, long ago era where minimum impact was still their grandchildren’s future idea.

Even at remote, relatively rarely visited, difficult to access sites like this one, the artifacts are picked clean. 20 years ago, there was an abundance of artifacts like large painted pottery shards and even woven sandal pieces at sites like this. Today, there is only this small collection of relatively ugly and small shards remaining.

There are also a few original corn cobs at the site. Sites like this are something like 700-1000 years old, so these corn cobs have been laying around for that long. Notice how small they are – no modern fertilizers and GMO in that era! It’s a testament to how dry the sites and the climate are for these cobs to remain pretty much intact through all that time.

Once in the ruin complex, most of the structures were easily seen by walking along a wide ledge. However, a few of the granaries far along the ledge seemed inaccessible by anyone but extreme climbers or those who lived their whole lives in such places (see below picture).

The structures far out along the ledge were almost inaccessible.

The structures at this site use less wood than other sites, probably because it was more remote from sources of wood with straight segments (the juniper and pinyon on the mesa were relatively twisted).

You can see how different segments of this wall were built using different materials and skills, and probably by different individuals. The cubby in the lower right seems to be a granary tucked into the space between the main structure (probably a habitation) and the canyon wall.

We had only vague directions on how to find the site, and as you can see on the GPS, there was a lot of back and forth searching to find the site, and then find the way into the site. This is not uncommon when looking for remote sites.

I hope this has given you a feel for what it’s like to visit a remote Anasazi site. 

New Website Introduction

There have been many changes in my life recently: divorce, the purchase of my company, a new love in my life (Renee), and then quitting my job at the new company. With the change in company came the requirement that I relocate, and the quitting of that job hasn't changed the path I was on to sell my house and move elsewhere, since there are no jobs available for me in my present location. So this constitutes the Big Three changes that can happen modern American life: divorce, change of job, and moving house.

With the choice to terminate employment comes opportunity. While working, a person has money but not time. Without employment, one has time. And if the person has saved a little money to bridge the gap, that's called a sabbatical. I am going to take some time away from working to hike, photograph, run rivers, and show Renee some places she has not seen before.

Along with all the other changes, the old host site for my photographs is going away, adding another minor change to my life. But here there is also opportunity. The old site hosted old technology, while this site has some of the latest. I don't chase new technology, but if change must happen, it's good to use what's available.

My plan is to publish new photographs taken during our travels here at the new site, as well as trip reports and essays. Stay tuned here if you would like to follow along, or use the link at the top of the page to subscribe via RSS feed.