Looking for Lost Ruins

Over the last couple of weeks I have made several trips to the Cedar Mesa area of Utah in search of a couple particular ruins. The first couple of trips were unsuccessful although beautiful in their own right. The third trip that I took, last week, I found two of the ruins I was looking for before the rain started coming down and forced me to hightail it out of there.

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There is a lot of controversy concerning the dispersion of information about ruin and petroglyph sites in the Southwest. The general rule of ethics is that no specific locations are given out over the internet or in books. This rule is followed for the most part and generally speaking there is very little specific information available on the internet to locate these sites. That is not to say that internet research can’t help to narrow down possible site locations, it is however very rare and considered bad form to post GPS Coordinates or even specific canyon names.

That being said, my personal feeling on this is that I agree, specific information should not be written freely on the internet allowing anyone to read it and locate these sites at the drop of a hat. However, I also do not believe in the stringent efforts that are made to disguise the location of these sites. I believe that these sites, if located on public property, are there for people to view and to enjoy and that they are one of the only traces left of a people that once inhabited this land. It is also important that for those that choose to do the research and find these sites that they treat them with the utmost respect and remember that after these sites are gone there will be nothing left of these ancient people. The BLM has a page on their website that lists some important things to remember when visiting these ancient places, please visit this page prior to visiting any ancient site so you can learn what you should and should not do while there.

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Now moving on with the story, I spent two trips exploring one canyon in particular, looking for a famous site called Cave 7. This particular site is not a lot to look at however it has a lot of historic value. In 1893 Richard Wetherill led an exploring party to this site and found ninety-seven skeletons which showed evidence of violence at the site. These skeletons were reportedly found buried five or six feet beneath the ground. There is much to be said for the historical value of the find that Wetherill made in 1893 and in another post I will go into more detail about the findings at Cave 7, however on this trip I did not find Cave 7.

I had spent the whole day before exploring side canyons, climbing up narrow dry waterfalls and peeking in and out of hidden alcoves looking for traces of the past. This day I decided to take a different path into the canyon, entering at a side canyon where I had found a very nice ruin the day before named Over and Under Ruin. It was fairly early in the morning so I decided that I would stop at this ruin and shoot some images before heading into the main canyon to further my search for Cave 7.

I have to admit that even with fairly solid information on the location of Over and Under Ruin that I obtained through internet research it was still not an easy task to locate this ruin. It’s located up a small arm of a side canyon and it’s really not visible until you are on top of it. The ruin itself is a fairly well preserved ruin in the lower alcove and it also has an upper alcove which contains ruins as well however they cannot be accessed. Since I stopped here on my way to further my exploration I was unfortunately a little bit early to shoot this ruin in the best light, none the less I did snap a few shots.

One of the rooms still well preserved in the lower alcove of Over and Under Ruin.

One of the rooms still well preserved in the lower alcove of Over and Under Ruin.

One of the structures left in the lower alcove of Over and Under Ruin. This structure still has the wood left from a floor in the room.

One of the structures left in the lower alcove of Over and Under Ruin. This structure still has the wood left from a floor in the room.

This is a pictograph found on the back wall of the lower alcove of Over and Under Ruin.

This is a pictograph found on the back wall of the lower alcove of Over and Under Ruin.

After snapping a few photos at Over and Under Ruin I headed out into the main canyon to look for Cave 7 and another ruin that sounded like it was right in the same area, called Pastel Alcove Ruin. As I was walking into the main canyon I noticed the rain starting to fall, at first I didn’t really notice it but soon enough it was coming down hard.

The canyon I was in is not just a flat bottom easy-walking canyon, instead it’s a canyon cut by deep ravines which make the going rather tough, especially when the ravine walls turn into mud. So there I am standing at the top of the ravine, debating whether I need to turn tail and head to the truck or explore one more side canyon. With the rain falling down I decided to head into one more canyon.

Luck would have it that I made the right choice. As I was walking up the canyon I noticed something up on the side of the canyon, a small ruin perched on a ledge, and it was Pastel Alcove Ruin. Unfortunately with the rain falling I was forced to just snap a couple of shots before packing it up and making my way back to the truck.

So here is one shot of Pastel Alcove Ruin…

This is a small ruin perched high up on a ledge on the wall of a side canyon.

This is a small ruin perched high up on a ledge on the wall of a side canyon.

After making it back to the truck I started heading out of the area but I decided that I should make one more stop before going back to Durango. Tower House Ruin is another one in the area that I have been meaning to visit so I made my way toward it. After finding a place to park on the side of the road I started walking and found a cairned trail that led down into the canyon below. From the rim of the canyon I could see several alcoves and once in the bottom of the canyon I could see the two-story ruin.

This is a photo showing the alcove that contains the two-story structure known as Tower House Ruin.

This is a photo showing the alcove that contains the two-story structure known as Tower House Ruin.

This is the wall of the well preserved two-story structure known as Tower House Ruin.

This is the wall of the well preserved two-story structure known as Tower House Ruin.

This is a petroglyph carved into the wall next to the entrance to Tower House Ruin.

This is a petroglyph carved into the wall next to the entrance to Tower House Ruin.

After shooting Tower House Ruin I decided that the trip was probably over due to the impending storms so I headed back to Durango.

Now here I sit a week later and the snow has finally come. I’m not sure if I’ll be headed back to find Cave 7 this winter or not. If not I’m sure that it will still be there come spring and I know where my first trip will be.

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