Montezuma Creek TR
As we left our property in Old La Sal a strong wind blew across the vast land of canyons. A wall of red dust rose thousands of feet in the air, reminiscent of a scene from one of the Mummy movies, completely obscuring the 12,000 ft La Sal peaks.
This would not be the best day to enjoy most of what the four corners area had to offer, but as this would be mostly a driving adventure we figured the weather would be fine. Our destination was a trip through Montezuma Creek. This trip had long been on my bucket list of places to explore. It would not disappoint.
We drove to the south end of one of my favorite towns of Blanding, turning onto an unmarked dirt road next to the American Gas Company. The surrounding desert was filled with the dyeing rusty carcasses of propane tanks. The road headed southwest and would eventualy deposit us into Montezuma Creek.
Not many miles along this access road we passed through a small canyon and I noticed some small caves worn into the rugged rock face. I was not expecting to see ruins in this tiny canyon and we almost drove right by. Something in the cliffs caught my eye and I told my wife, Michelle to stop and back up. She always drives on our adventures while I navigate. Through the years she's turned into a 4 wheeling expert. Sure enough there were several masonry walls nestled into the caves with some small rock art panels. It was a nice surprise that only heightened our anticipation for what we would find in Montezuma Creek.
We finally made it to Montezuma Creek and turned north. The canyon walls protected us somewhat from the gale force winds blowing overhead. I could see why this canyon would have been popular with prehistoric people. The creek had cut a wide gorge though the canyon, creating perfect little plains to farm on.
Not far into the canyon we would be rewarded with our first rock art panel. This one was easy to spot as the white outlines of the petroglyphs boldly stood out from the black desert varnish face they had been pecked from. Hiking up to the base of the panel we could see the abstract rendering of elk and bison, as well as men on horseback giving us a clue that these were not drawn by the Anasazi but by the Ute’s. To the right of this panel another panel of large geometric figures was etched into the canyon wall.
As we drove along we would discover several other rock art panels. I'm sure we missed more that we found, even though we have developed a practiced eye for spotting our ancient prey.
About midway through the canyon we would arrive at "Three Kiva Ruin". It was larger than I expected and nestled in the middle of a little valley. No information was available at the site about when it had been occupied but my feeling was it was an old settlement that predated the events that would drive these people in a defensive position along the cliff walls.
Part of the ruin was a restored kiva compete with ladder that allowed us to drop into its cool interior and totally escape the biting wind. It was about 20 ft in diameter with a stone bench and alcoves running along its circumference. The soft light filtering through the roof opening highlighted the cedar logs woven together to create the circular roof. A patch of sunlight shone like a spotlight illuminating the sipupa dug into the dirt floor. What stories could these old stones tell us if they could talk? What ancient rituals where performed within these walls? What plans were made for hunting or when to plant? What stories were shared about their acts of valor and their own mythology? I could have spent hours sitting in the confines of the kiva’s embrace, letting my mind wonder into those ancient times, but the road beckoned.
Not far from the kiva we found some large cliff dwellings built along two different cliff bands. Several of the structures were still in good shape. Scattered masonary walls along the cliffs bore testament to how large this site would have been in its prime.
We saw several other ruins build along the cliff faces as we traveled. We kept searching the rock cliffs for a well known granary build into a unique geological formation, but we never spotted it.
The last few miles of the canyon would give way to the modern farmers who now called these red rock walls home. These modern Anasazi have even built their homes in the red rock caves of the canyon.
It had been a fun day of exploration that left us feeling good about our initial exploration of this desert gem, but left us wanting more. We will be back.
We must go forward, even if we can't!
06-13-2012 01:12 PM
Nice Trip Report and great pix! Thanks for sharing.
I used to live in Montezuma Creek. Not many people can say that! Lol.
My Father was a Baptist Preacher there for about a year and a half. He also worked on maintaining the derricks.
Sure does bring back a lot of memories