Deep in the heart of the San Juan National Forest, Chimney Rock National Monument is an area of Colorado rooted in history. For those adventurers looking to catch a glimpse into the life of the Ancestral Puebloan people, this area between Durango and Pagosa Springs is filled with archaeological history and beautiful mountain views.
This national monument was once home to several thousand Ancestral Puebloan Native Americans. Even though the Ancestral Puebloans burned the majority of the buildings of the Chimney Rock community when they left in 1125 AD, plenty of archaeological sites exist to this day.
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When visiting Chimney Rock National Monument, make sure to check out Chimney Rock itself as well as the archaeological area. Chimney Rock and Companion Rock are both popular nesting spots for the Peregrine Falcon, so keep an eye out for these majestic birds.
In the archaeological area, visitors can visit the Great House Pueblo, one of the largest houses maintained by the Pueblo people. Some artifacts that archaeologists have uncovered at the site of the Great House include a grizzly bear jawbone, an abalone shell pendant, turquoise ear pendants, possible gambling dice, and pottery. Archeologists discovered that every 18.6 years, the moon rises between Chimney Rock and Companion rock. This event, called the “Northern Lunar Standstill”, can be seen directly from the Great House, and the Pueblo’s construction aligns with this lunar phenomenon. Archeologists have thus hypothesized that the Great House was a site of great religious importance and likely built by priests who had migrated up from Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.
Another attraction to visit at this national monument is the Great Kiva. This circular rock structure was used for religious practices.
To best explore Chimney Rock National Monument, start at the visitor center at the base of the monument itself. Visitors can take guided and self-guided tours that wind along the Great Kiva, the Great House Pueblo, and various other rooms. This tour takes approximately two and a half hours, so make sure to leave enough time for the adventure!
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