Yucca House National Monument
|Yucca House National Monument|
Unexcavated mound at Yucca House National Monument
|Location||Montezuma County, Colorado, USA|
|Nearest city||Cortez, Colorado|
|Area||33.87 acres (13.71 ha)|
|Created||December 19, 1919|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
|Website||Yucca House National Monument|
Yucca House National Monument is a United States National Monument located in Montezuma County, Colorado between the towns of Towaoc (headquarters of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe) and Cortez, Colorado. Yucca House is a large, unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site.
Yucca House National Monument is located in the Montezuma Valley at the foot of Sleeping Ute Mountain, called "mountain with lots of yucca growing on it" by the Ute people, and inspiration for the name of the national monument.
- Western Complex was a large pueblo of up to 600 rooms, 100 kivas and a giant, perhaps community, kiva. A spring runs through the complex. A large building about 80 × 100 feet, Upper House, was made of adobe. The ruins are about 12 to 15 feet high, but may have been twice that height.
- Lower House is an L-shaped pueblo 200 feet by 180 inches with a plaza, 8 small rooms 7 × 2 feet and a large kiva
Nearby were the ancient pueblo village of Mud Springs at the head of McElmo Canyon and Navajo Springs, was the original site of the Ute Mountain Indian Agency south of Sleeping Ute Mountain in the early 1900s.
Like other nearby Ancient Pueblo peoples, the Yucca House pueblo dwellers abandoned their homes, but because a major excavation has not been completed it is not known when, or if there is a relationship between these people and those of nearby pueblo settlements.
Archaeological study and excavation
- William Henry Holmes visited in 1875 and in 1878 produced a report for the United States Geological Survey. Holmes erroneously named the land "Aztec Springs" believing that ruins were the home of a band of Aztecs. He created the initial map of the ruins.
- Holmes reports: "These ruins form the most imposing pile of masonry yet found in Colorado. The whole group covers an area of about 480,00 square feet, and has an average depth of from 3 to 4 feet. [...] The stone used is chiefly of the fossiliferous limestone that outcrops along the base of the Mesa Verde a mile or so away."
- In 1918 J. Walter Fewkes studied and remapped the ruins
- An excavation was completed by the Museum of Natural History in New York in the late 1910s led by Earl Morris and, in the 5th year of excavation led by Dr. Clark Wissler. Wissler found that the interior walls of the "remarkable shrine room" were painted white with a red border and the floor covered with expertly cut slabs of stone, similar to one of the rooms at the Mesa Verde National Park. A sacred 2½ foot serpent was carved into wood at the ceiling.
- In two separate projects in 1964, Al Lancaster studied the area and stabilized the masonry wall of Lower House in 1964 and Al Schroeder found that some of "Upper House" was constructed of adobe, quite rare for sites built in the 13th century
- Studies were conducted in the late 1990s following the donation of additional acreage which expanded the number of sites. The study included analysis of pottery on the new site and remapping the site with modern technology.
- Robert C. McBride and Diane E. McBride, "Cultural Resource Survey of the Bernard and Nancy Karwick Property, Montezuma County, Colorado: A Study of the Greater Yucca House Community," unpublished paper submitted to History Colorado, Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, Denver, 2014.
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the site a National Monument on December 19, 1919, after the donation of 9.5 acres (38,000 m2) of land on July 2, 1919 by a private landowner. An additional 24 acres was donated by Hallie Ismay in the late 1990s. It was one of many research national monuments designated during that era to preserve the ruins, plants and animals in the Yucca House area. Hallie Ismay, benefactor of the additional land in the 1990s, was an unofficial steward of the Yucca House site for 62 years.
Currently, there are no true interpretive features, facilities or fees at Yucca House. See the Visitor Guide for directions to the remote location. Parking space is limited and roads may be difficult immediately following rains or snowmelt. 
Entrance to the monument is by an easement across the Box Bar ranch owned by the local Ford dealer Joe Keezee and his partner Lucky Pickens. Though the ranch was purchased with the easement already in place there have been numerous attempts to prevent the public from accessing the monument via the easement. These efforts have been documented in the local newspaper, the Cortez Journal, and have included an attempt to convince the county Board of Commissioners to close the public road that feeds the easement, erection of no trespassing signs and gates and removal of directional signs. See, eg https://the-journal.com/articles/135630-visitors-to-yucca-house-monument-encounter-notrespassing-sign; https://durangoherald.com/articles/266579
Mesa Verde - administrator of Yucca House National Monument
Other neighboring Ancient Pueblo sites in Colorado
- Anasazi Heritage Center
- Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
- Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
- Hovenweep National Monument
Other cultures in the Four Corners region
Early American cultures
- "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
- Visitor Guide. National Park Service. Retrieved 9-22-2011.
- History & Culture. National Park Service. Retrieved 9-22-2011.
- Rohn, Arthur H.; Ferguson, William M. (2006). Puebloan ruins of the Southwest. University of New Mexico Press. Page 135. ISBN 0-8263-3969-7.
- Art and archaeology, Volumes 9-10. Archaeological Institute of America, Archaeological Society of Washington, College Art Association of America, 1920. Page 42.
- Dutton, Bertha Pauline. (1983) . American Indians of the Southwest. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-0704-3.
- Art and archaeology, Volumes 9-10. Archaeological Institute of America, Archaeological Society of Washington, College Art Association of America, 1920.
- Yucca House National Monument (National Park Service)