On our way back to Blanding from Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, we found backroads to Hovenweep National Monument. President Warren G. Harding established it as a national monument in 1923. The monument protects five prehistoric ancestral Puebloan canyon-head villages located along a 16-mile stretch of land intersecting the Utah-Colorado border west of Cortez, Colorado.
The Square Tower Unit is the largest section of the monument. The Square Tower group sits in the heart of a 500-square-mile raised block of land called Cajon Mesa and is part of the Great Sage Plain. Several streams drain the mesa and flow into the San Juan River to the south.
As we walked around the canyon head, we looked east to see the familiar Sleeping Ute Mountain, which we learned about earlier today at Canyons of the Ancients. This reminded us how connected many of the ancestral pueblo sites were in this area, despite their segregation into different parks and monuments.
Our first view of the ruins in this area, were at Stronghold House, the ruins of which are in the foreground of the photo below, with Twin Towers in the left background and Eroded Boulder House in the right middle ground:
The most impressive ruins at Hovenweep were Hovenweep Castle:
Hovenweep Castle consists of two D-shaped towers perched on the rim of Little Ruin Canyon. The stone walls, two and three courses thick, show detailed masonry techniques. Growth rings on a wooden beam in one tower indicate that the log was cut in 1277 AD, one of the latest dates on any structure in the San Juan region.
From across the canyon, Hovenweep Castle is even more impressive:
The ruin we came to see was Square Tower. The two-story-tall tower stands down in the canyon. Situated on a large sandstone boulder, it was built in a slight spiral shape, perhaps for added strength or for aesthetics. The single T-shaped doorway faces west. There is evidence of an earlier doorway facing the spring at the head of the canyon. A kiva was excavated beside Square Tower. Unlike many tower-kiva associations elsewhere, Square Tower and its kiva were not connected by a tunnel.
Hovenweep includes several other ruin areas, but, unfortunately, we had no time to explore them. We've decided to put this on the list for our next visit to the area, perhaps park our RV in the campground, and spend a few days exploring all of the ruins at various times of the day.