Posts Tagged With: Ute


From the town of Cortez, if you are traveling this area, the Hovenweep Little Ruin Canyon is 42 miles distance. The drive to it takes you through  a landscape of  massive boulders.  Giant boulders balanced on smaller rocks,  leaning precariously upon each other, looking as though you could climb up like a naughty child and push them down on unsuspecting drivers.  Hovenweep is a Ute, Paiute word meaning deserted valley.  The ancient Puebloans built here and the above photo is a sweep of this small canyon, their houses, towers, and how they chose to locate  their community on both sides of the  canyon walls.

You may be looking at a roofless house with a window and a few walls intact, but you have to wonder about them. How is it that these supposedly simple buildings are still standing after 1200 years?  Had they not abandoned them, surely they would be whole today.

This family chose to build inside of a naturally hollowed out boulder.

This round tower, why was it round and other buildings square?

And, a tower at the bottom of the canyon with no doors?  It had to be built with tall ladders. What did they use it for?  Did they fend off enemies from inside this tower?  Or protect something precious?

The Little Ruin Canyon is quite shallow at both ends, deeper and wider at the center, but rough and tumble surfaces don’t translate into an easy place to live and build.

And at first glance, we thought the buildings were made of adobe bricks. Not so. Look closely and you’ll see that each rock was selected to fit with another one. They were talented architects, and it took time to choose each rock.  I’ve built a 120 foot  rock retaining  wall and it is like working a puzzle. You might have to  try 3 or 4 rocks to fit a certain spot.

But they did it on the very edge of the canyon walls.  I guess you can tell I am impressed with their complexity.

How did they build these twin towers?  From the inside, the canyon face side first, is my guess. What a feat.  So tall and straight.

The walk around the rim and down into the canyon and out is two miles.   We walked to the “castle” above, but Jim was feeling like he could  make the full circle, so we pushed on.

There are places where one misstep could find you wedged in a deep crevice.  Not a place to walk at night or alone.

And I became fascinated by the unusual pastel baby blue colored lichens.  We often see bright neon green and orange, reds, greys, and browns.

And, an occasional brightly colored rock.

And this very handsome lizard.

It is a nice easy hike if you are not injured and a fascinating ruins. We talked about what it must be like to see a billion stars at night without a hint of light pollution.

We imagined the quiet of living with only natural sounds, whispering breezes, animals and birds, thunderous waters cascading down the canyon walls during rains.

The walk down into the canyon and back out was steep, and Jim struggled some with his recent injury, but it is a beautiful place to visit. The Historic National Monument has two other ruin sites along the road.  They are off dirt roads for our type of vehicle, but the Little Ruin Canyon was enough for us.  We continued back to Cortez  traveling a  full circle continuing in the same direction we started. Only this scenery was without boulders. We saw miles and miles of green, green hay and alfalfa fields being harvested. Huge wells, small ponds, even a couple of oil wells. Yet the distance to Cortez from either directing leaving Hovenweep is  42 miles.

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There is only one place in the United States where four states meet and touch at the same place.  A monument established there allows visitors  to be in four states at the same time.  Quite an attraction for being out in the middle of  “nowhere”.  I hope I don’t get condemned for saying that.  This is Navajo Reservation and Ute Reservation land boundaries as well, with occupation by Hopi and Zuni populations.  The Navajo Nation runs the monument with flags from all states flying in the wind.

We watched amused as this family took turns touching all four states.

The daughter got creative and did a back bend.  My advice, best to do back bends while you still can.

After our long drive from Canyon de Chelly,  Jim was still feeling a bit of pain, but managed to get down on his knees to touch the four states.

Each state has a bronze plaque in the cement and a marble block engraved with  a brief history of the founding of each state.

Surveyor Chandler Robbins established the first line in 1875. The Marble Monuments were installed by the National Society Of Professional Surveyors.

The history is an interesting one about how the boundaries were established,  but the light was such the photos of the marble blocks  didn’t turn out.  The  Marble Monuments were installed in 2010.  The first survey line was established within measurable distance from a  recognizable land mark, a huge jutting rock that looks like a ship rising out of the desert, aptly named Shiprock.

The first surveyor, marked the point in 1875, and this monument has been upgraded five times since then, with a dispute here and there along the way.


It is an important thing to know the boundaries of each state yet we don’t give it much thought. We enjoyed the stop, and visiting the  Navajo Kiosks surrounding the site selling native crafts, mostly pottery and jewelry. Something called horsehair pottery,  peace pipes and items we’ve seen nowhere else are available here.

I bought an Indian fry bread and went back to the motor home and made a delicious taco from it.


I offered to help drive, but Jim, with the help of a  little pillow to shield his bruised muscle and ribs from the seat belt, he managed the 140 miles by himself.

This is back country, and the road plows through some desolate landscape with a sudden picturesque rock face jutting up from the desert floor.


I thought  this may be Shiprock.

Or this may be Shiprock. Kind of resembles a ship plowing through the waves.

We are parked at an American Legion in the small town of Cortez, Colorado.

For more information about the Four Corners Monument, you can click the link below:

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