Chimney Rock National Monument
- This article is about the U.S. National Monument in Colorado. For the U.S. National Historic Site in Nebraska, see Chimney Rock National Historic Site
|Chimney Rock National Monument|
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Chimney Rock is on the right, Companion Rock on the left
|Location||Archuleta County, Colorado, USA|
|Nearest city||Chimney Rock, Colorado|
|Area||4,726 acres (1,913 ha)|
|Authorized||September 21, 2012|
|Governing body||U.S. Forest Service|
|Designated||August 25, 1970|
|Official name||Chimney Rock Archaeological Area|
Chimney Rock National Monument is a 4,726-acre (1,913 ha) U.S. National Monument in San Juan National Forest in southwestern Colorado which includes an archaeological site. This area is located in Archuleta County, Colorado between Durango and Pagosa Springs and is managed for archaeological protection, public interpretation, and education. The Chimney Rock Archaeological Site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1970. U.S. President Barack Obama created Chimney Rock National Monument by proclamation on September 21, 2012 under authority of the Antiquities Act.
Chimney Rock lies on 4,726 acres (19 km2) of San Juan National Forest land surrounded by the Southern Ute Indian Reservation. Chimney Rock itself occupies 1,000 acres (4 km2) of the site, and is approximately 315 feet (96 m) tall. Next to Chimney Rock is Companion Rock, which is a popular nesting spot for the Peregrine Falcon.
The primary settlements that have been excavated lie on the ridge that eventually terminates at Chimney Rock. The ridge is mostly bedrock made of sandstone.
The rock itself is over 535 million years old, and offers 75-mile panoramic views of the local area. The Ancestral Puebloan site, designated on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, was a community inhabited between Durango and Pagosa Springs about 1,000 years ago with about 200 rooms. Rooms in the buildings were used for living, work areas and ceremonial purposes.
The site is located within the San Juan National Forest Archaeological Area on 4,100 acres of land. Between May 15 and September 30 the Visitor Center is open and guided walking tours are conducted daily.
Housing approximately 2,000 ancient Pueblo Indians between A.D. 925 and 1125, the settlement included a Great House Pueblo with round ceremonial rooms, known as kivas, and 36 ground-floor rooms. A grizzly bear jaw found in one of the rooms when excavated suggested a reverence for the animal, and modern Chaco oral history suggests that the Bear clan originated in the Chimney Rock area.
The Chaco culture which inhabited the Chimney Rock area was hierarchical, with a priest class overseeing the area's inhabitants. The construction of the Great House Pueblo at the top of the ridge, close to Chimney Rock and its neighbor Companion Rock, had a large ceremonial role in the later years of Chaco presence. As the moon makes its lunar cycle across the sky over a period of 18.6 years, it appears in a "lunar standstill" between the two rocks every 9.3 for a period of approximately 2 years.
Evidence suggests that Great House Pueblo was first built in 1076 during a lunar standstill and expanded and finished in 1093 during another. It consists of 36 rooms and two kivas. Archaeologists believe that Great House Pueblo was mainly ceremonial in nature, with only one or two families living in its rooms. During certain key ceremonies, it functioned as a hotel for visiting notables, some of whom came from as far away as Chaco Canyon, in modern day Northern New Mexico, 90 miles from Chimney Rock.
Material to build the Great House Pueblo came from downhill and was hauled by hand up the ridge line from further below. Five pithouses, titled Room A through E, probably housed the workers who built Great House Pueblo. Rooms A and B were excavated in 1921-1922 by early archaeologists, but their insufficient knowledge of how to stabilize walls, coupled with a decision to use the wood they found in the ruins for their campfires, has left little knowledge of these ruins, with little left today. The pottery was preserved and is now stored in boxes in the basement of the Anasazi Center in Durango.
Halfway between the worker's houses and the Great House Pueblo was a ruin that archaeologists named the "Guardhouse." It Stretched from one side of the ridge to the other, and housed one family. Rather than serving as a defensive post against invaders, it more likely performed crowd control, keeping undesirables out of the Great House Pueblo, and letting the elites through. After excavation this ruin became extremely unstable and was eventually removed by the Forest Service for fear of visitors' safety.
The base of the trail up to Great House Pueblo begins next to a pit house complex made up of three pit houses and accompanying workrooms. An extended, multi generational family would have lived in this complex. Excavations of the workrooms showed separate areas with grinding stones for corn and a sort of "man cave" where men would make arrowheads and tools.
The last two excavated sites are a singular pit house and the Great Kiva. The Great Kiva shows similarities to others across the southwest, with a central fire pit, diverting stone and ventilation shaft.
It also has unique features. Instead of a bench that runs the perimeter to store ritual items, several pits in the ground were built, and they are believed to be storage areas. When excavated, archaeological students found a lack of wood and other roof materials; their hypothesis was that it had no roof and was open to the air. An alternative hypothesis is that it was never finished for a number of reasons. One is that-built in 1084-it was abandoned before they finished. The other is that during construction, the builders believed it had bad spirits and didn't wish to finish.
The inhabitants of Chimney Rock abandoned the site in 1125, burning the buildings when they left. Their modern day descendants consider the site sacred with the spirits of their ancestors, and have asked the Forest Service to refrain from further excavation out of respect.
Since the 1960s, Dr. Frank Eddy of the University of Colorado and others have studied the site, and research continues. 8 villages or settlements have been discovered in the area so far, a majority of which have remained unexcavated since Dr. Eddy's work in the early 1970s.
Guided and self-guided tours begin at the small visitor center at the base of the monument today. The guided tour comes in two parts; a quarter mile paved pathway that winds through unexcavated sites and the Great Kiva and singular pithouse, and a third mile, more strenuous dirt and rock path that runs past the pit house complex, Rooms A-E, the Guardhouse, and Great House Pueblo. The tour lasts approximately 2 1/2 hours and gIves detailed information of the inhabitants and their lives.
Since becoming a National Monument, the volunteers and employees at Chimney Rock are pushing for a grant to build a small museum on site to display information and artifacts from excavations. Currently all artifacts are boxed and stored in museums across the Four Corners Region.
In the mid-1970s, the rock was home to one of only seven remaining pairs of peregrine falcons in the Rocky Mountains region at the time. The experiences of Marcy Cottrell Houle in studying this pair of peregrine falcons was documented in her book Wings for My Flight: The Peregrine Falcons of Chimney Rock.
As part of a continuing education program, the first virtual visitors this year were 26 people on indoor stationary bicycles in Ohio. They cycled, virtually, to the Monument, around the Monument, and from the Monument, while studying its rich history.
Its care, protection, and preservation are shared by the Pagosa Ranger District, United States Forest Service and the public, who contribute through tour fees, donations, and purchase of items from the Chimney Rock Visitor's Center. The Chimney Rock Interpretive Program, managed and staffed by the U.S. Forest Service and volunteers of the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association, conducts daily guided walking tours and operates the Visitor Center during in-season, May 15 to September 30.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2006-03-15.
- "Colorado State Register of Historic Properties". History Colorado. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
- President of the United States of America (September 21, 2012). "Establishment of the Chimney Rock National Monument". The White House. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- Chimney Rock Archaeological Area.
- Houle, Marcy Cottrell (2014). Wings for My Flight: The Peregrine Falcons of Chimney Rock (Updated ed.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. p. xii. ISBN 9780826354341.
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- United States Forest Service.gov: official Chimney Rock National Monument website
- Chimney Rock Interpretive Association.org: Chimney Rock National Monument
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