Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument Is unique towers grouped in six well preserved ruin villages, remind many visitors of European castles. Interestingly, these ancient structures straddling the Utah-Colorado border were built about the same time as medieval fortresses. The largest and most accessible of the Hovenweep ruins is Square Tower, where several structures are located.
Hovenweep National Monument protects some of the finest examples of ancient stone architecture in the southwest. The inhabitants of Hovenweep National Monument were part of the large farming culture which occupied the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona from about 500 B.C. until nearly A.D. 1300. These peoples that inhabited Hovenweep National Monument also constructed the cliff dwellings in nearby Mesa Verde National Park. The Hovenweep National Monument is noted for its solitude, clear skies and undeveloped, natural character.
There is a system of loop trails at the Square Tower Unit and ranger-guided tours throughout the day. Hovenweep National Monument is 20 miles north of Aneth via a paved road. There is a 30-site campground and a new visitor center.
Located astride the southeastern Utah/southwestern Colorado border, Hovenweep National Monument is comprised of six ruin clusters–four in Colorado, two in Utah–all of which are perched on the canyon rims and along the drainage of the area. The name, derived from the Ute language and meaning “deserted valley,” was first used when William H. Jackson visited the site in 1874.
Anasazi occupation started between A.D. 250-450 (Basketmaker II) and continued to around A.D. 1300 (Pueblo III). The people of Hovenweep were culturally similar to those living at Mesa Verde; they adopted a corn, beans, and squash-based agriculture; constructed square, oval, circular, and D-shaped towers; manufactured and traded related pottery types; and built kivas and houses of identical construction. The earliest agricultural activities centered on the mesa tops where the Anasazi employed dry farming techniques. Starting in the early 1200s, the use of canyon bottoms, springs, and seeps became prevalent, suggesting a shift to more permanent water sources.
The most prominent feature of Hovenweep is its towers, which are divided into two general types. The first type is the isolated tower located on boulders or mesa edges, often found in pairs, and lighted by portholes and small windows. The second consists of integrated towers associated with room blocks or kiva clusters. Archaeologists disagree about the use of these buildings, variously suggesting that they possibly served as lookouts, signal towers, defense posts, celestial observatories, granaries, habitations, and/or ceremonial structures. Recent studies have shown that at least three ruins have small windows or portholes that align with the solstices and equinoxes. Another study showed that each tower could be seen by at least two other towers or ruins, which suggests that they might have served as signal stations, although many of the structures appear to have had a variety of functions. Most were built around A.D. 1230, just seventy years before the general Anasazi abandonment of the Four Corners region.
Robert S. McPherson
VISITATION: Annual visitation is 28,000.
LOCATION: Hovenweep National Monument is located in southeastern Utah, just north and west of Cortez, Colorado.
Hovenweep National Monument
Cortez, CO 81321 (US Mail)
(970) 749-0510 (Cellular)
(435) 459-4344 (within Utah)
OPERATING HOURS, SEASONS: Hovenweep is open year-round. The Ranger Station is open from 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., seven days a week. The Ranger Station is closed winter holidays.
CLIMATE, RECOMMENDED CLOTHING: Summer highs may exceed 100 Degrees Fahrenheit, with lows in the 60’s. Fall and Spring temperatures are milder, with highs in the 70’s and 80’s. Winter temperatures range from highs in the 40’s and 50’s to lows well below freezing. Snow is usually light to moderate. Biting Pinon Gnats are common in late May.
From Cortez, Colorado: Travel on US Highway 160 south 4 miles, then head west on County Road “G” (airport roadway) 41 miles (one hour travel time).
From Blanding or Bluff, Utah: Turn east off of US Highway 191 on Utah State 262 to the Hatch Trading Post. Follow the Hovenweep signs 16 additional miles (one hour travel time).
TRANSPORTATION: No commercial transportation is available. Most visitors arrive by private vehicle. Visitors are advised to call for road conditions during winter and stormy weather. Utah travel information is available from the Utah Travel Council.
FEES, COSTS, RATES: $6.00 per passenger vehicle or $3.00 per person. Commercial fees are collected. Please call for more information.
FACILITIES AND OPPORTUNITIES:
Ranger Station: The ranger station contains limited exhibits and educational information for visitors. There is a bookstore specializing in materials on the culture and natural history of the area. A video is available for those not able to take the walking tour of the sites. Picnic tables are available at the Ranger Station Area. Due to the high cost of garbage removal, visitors are required to pack out their own garbage.
Trails: Hiking trails are available at each of the cultural sites and walking tours are possible with self-guiding trail guides. Special tours are also lead by the park staff (inquire at the ranger station). The trail system at Hovenweep is primitive and lightly maintained. Trails range in length from a 1/2 mile loop to an 8 mile route that connects two of the site groups.Two trails originate at the Ranger station and offer visitors the opportunity to view nearby archeological sites: one is a two mile trail that takes about 1.5 hours and has an elevation change of 150 feet; the second trail is shorter and easier. Contact the monument or ask at the ranger station for more information. Hiking is limited to established trails only
Services and Supplies: There are no services at Hovenweep. Information on restaurants, lodging and other visitor needs is available from the Mesa Verde Country Web Site. Gasoline and limited grocery items are available in most of the towns near Hovenweep.
Photography: Hovenweep is a paradise for photographers. The rich colors of the sandstone glow in the crisp sunlight against a sky so blue it seems almost unreal. The buildings cling to the canyon rims, offering themselves for close-ups or cross-canyon shots that will reward even the most amateur picture-taker. And the night sky at Hovenweep is a treasure all its own, with air so clear and free of light-pollution that the Milky Way stretches from horizon to horizon in a jeweled rainbow, a spectacle seen only at a few select places on the planet.
Camping: There is a small campground near the ranger station which is open seasonally on a first-come, first-served basis. The sites are designed for tent camping, though a few sites will accommodate RV’s 25 feet or less in length. The fee is $10.00 per night. Flush toilets and running water are available.
Accessibility: The Ranger Station and restrooms are wheelchair accessible. Trails are uneven and primitive. Some trails can be negotiated with assistance and rough terrain chairs.
RECOMMENDED ACTIVITIES/PARK USE:
BASIC VISIT RECOMMENDATIONS:
Spring and fall are the most ideal seasons to visit. Plan at least 1 or 2 hours to visit the Ranger Station and Square Tower Group area trails and archeological sites.