A National Monument is a protected area of land of historic, cultural, and/or scientific significance. While the National Parks Service oversees National Parks, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Bureau of Land Management can all manage National Monuments. Additionally, the office of the President has the power to designate National Monuments (National Parks are designated as such by Congress).
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is located in Southwest Colorado, not far from Mesa Verde National Park. This region contains a massive number of Ancestral Puebloan and other American Indian archeological sites—more than 6,000 sites have been recorded so far with a density of up to 100 per square mile in some cases. Artifacts include: Pottery sherds, rock art, cliff dwellings, and midden (trash heaps).
Routes for cars through the monument are few and most are unpaved and rough. Hiking trails are also few and confined to certain areas of the monument. This strategy is purposeful to preserve delicate sites.
- Anasazi Heritage Center: This museum is the most comprehensive collection of Ancient Puebloan (Anasazi) cultural artifacts in the country. It is also the starting point for visiting Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
- The museum has a permanent collection on archaeology, local history, and Native American culture. It also has a research library, millions of artifacts, a picnic area, nature trail, and special events.
Recommended season(s): Monument is open year round and daily. Fall is the ideal season to visit the monument. Autumns months tend to be dry with moderate temperatures, and the flora produces beautiful fall foliage.