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Hovenweep National Monument

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Hovenweep National Monument protects five prehistoric, Puebloan-era villages spread over a twenty-mile expanse of mesa tops and canyons along the Utah-Colorado border. The multi-story towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders lead visitors to marvel at the skill and motivation of their builders. Hovenweep is noted for its solitude and undeveloped, natural character.

The Square Tower Group is the primary contact facility with a visitor center, campground and interpretive trail. Outlying groups include Holly, Horseshoe, Hackberry, Cutthroat Castle and Cajon. Land surrounding Hovenweep belongs to the Navajo Nation, Bureau of Land Management, State of Utah and private landowners.

Human habitation at Hovenweep dates back over 10,000 years ago when nomadic Paleoindians visited the Cajon Mesa to gather food and hunt game. These people continued to use the mesa for centuries, following the seasonal weather patterns. By about A.D. 900, people started to settle at Hovenweep year-round, planting and harvesting crops in the rich soil of the mesa top. By the late 1200s, the Hovenweep area was home to over 2,500 people.

The first historic reports of the abandoned structures at Hovenweep were made by W.D. Huntington, the leader of a Mormon expedition into southeast Utah in 1854. The name "Hovenweep" is a Paiute/Ute word meaning "Deserted Valley" which was adopted by pioneer photographer William Henry Jackson in 1874. In 1917-18, J.W. Fewkes of the Smithsonian Institution surveyed the area and recommended the structures be protected. On March 2, 1923, President Warren G. Harding proclaimed Hovenweep a unit of the National Park System

Activities in the park include short hikes, natural quiet and some of the finest examples of ancestral Puebloan architecture in the southwest. The trail system provides access to each of the cultural site units. All units are open to the public but most are in remote locations and can be difficult to reach. The Square Tower Group is an ideal place to begin your exploration of Hovenweep. Stop by the visitor center, attend an interpretive program, and be sure to hike all or part of the two-mile self-guiding trail around Little Ruin Canyon.

  • More Information:
  • Hovenweep National Monument
  • McElmo Route
  • Cortez, CO 81321
  • Visitor Information:(970) 562-4282 ext. 10
  • Additional Information: http://www.nps.gov/hove/index.htm
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