Wednesday, August 17, 2022—The Ancients: Chimney Rock National Monument, and our Terminal Destination

Wednesday morning we departed Cortez, and drove east to Chimney Rock National Monument.

There are many “Chimney Rocks” in the US, including the more famous but perhaps of less historical significance Chimney Rock National Historic Site. It has become one of the most notable landmarks in the American West, largely due to its stop along the Oregon Trail (see our blog entry 

There’s also Chimney Rock State Park in North Carolina which we visited in 2000 (see blog entry for August9, 2020.)

And then, there is Chimney Rock National Monument. The monument represents one of the largest Pueblo II (900-1150 AD) communities in southwestern Colorado and is considered a Chacoan cultural “outlier.” The Chaco phenomenon was a complex system of dispersed communities bound by economic, political and religious interdependence centered in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.

The pinnacles that give Chimney Rock its name frame multiple astronomical alignments. The Ancestral Puebloans incorporated their knowledge of astronomy into the design of their community. Today, Chimney Rock National Monument is one of the best recognized archaeo-astronomical resources in North America, with alignments with the northern lunar standstill, summer solstice, equinoxes and Crab Nebula.

Pinacles at Chimney Rock NM

The Chimney Rock National Monument encompasses 4,726 acres of the San Juan National Forest between Durango and Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Chimney Rock covers seven square miles and preserves 200 ancient homes and ceremonial buildings, some of which have been excavated for viewing and exploration: a Great Kiva, a Pit House, a Multi-Family Dwelling, and a Chacoan-style Great House Pueblo. Chimney Rock is the highest in elevation of all the Chacoan sites, at about 7,000 feet above sea level. 

There were a bunch of wildflowers blooming at the Monument’s headquarters.

It began sprinkling as we were departing Chimney Rock National Monument. We continued east and north, in the rain, to our terminal destination, Creede, Colorado, where we will spend the next two weeks.