I had hoped to photograph the lunar eclipse with a tower ruin in the foreground but couldn’t because the ruins’ areas are closed at sunset so waited until the following day to explore Hovenweep National Monument.
“Hovenweep” is a Paiute and Ute word meaning “deserted valley” and was named by pioneer photographer William H Jackson who visited in 1874.
Established as a National Monument in 1923 Hovenweep is made up of six separate units spread over a 20-mile stretch of mesa tops and canyons. All units are open to the public but most are in remote locations and are difficult to reach. The Ranger in the visitor center told us the landscape is dotted with ruins.
A small spring at the head of Little Ruin Canyon along with rainwater sustained an ancestral Pueblo community over 700 years ago allowing the people to flourish in what looks like a harsh environment. I could almost hear people talking and children laughing as life evolved around these clusters of buildings.
Their masonry skills were impressive constructing with local rock, wood and mud mortar to create a variety of geometric shapes. There has been little excavation and lots of speculation by archaeologists who aren’t sure if the structures were observation towers, communication structures, defensive bastions, ceremonial edifices, living quarters or all of these things.
Barriers restrict visitors from getting close to the ruins in an effort to preserve these sites. Yet we saw a man (blue shirt) apparently leading a group of photographers go off trail to the square tower in a blatant disregard for the rules not to mention setting a bad example for his tour group.
Made a quick stop at the historic Hatch Trading Post which looks more interesting from the outside than in. A sign on the door said “No Cameras” but I can’t understand what was in the store of importance other than cold soda and beer plus some canned goods on the shelves that look like they’ve been there a long time. So we were off to Natural Bridges with the hope of getting a campsite for the night.