We rolled in to Ruins Road RV Park ($33/night cash only) in Aztec New Mexico around noon on March 31st. After quickly setting up we headed out to our next caper. Aztec Ruins National Monument on New Mexico’s Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway.
The Aztec Ruins were found near the Animas River and were erroneously named Aztec by 19th century settlers as they believed they had found Aztec ruins. The ruins are actually ancestral homes of the modern Puebloan Peoples. The Ancestral Puebloans occupied the area from the 11th to the 13th centuries but the area was also used by Paleo-Indians as long as 10,000 years ago.
The Ancients started building the 500 room complex with a 41 foot Kiva and dozens of smaller Kivas around 1100 AD. The master plan was followed in additions made over the 150 year occupation of the pueblo. The architecture of the buildings link the inhabitants directly to the Chaco Canyon culture. These ruins are fascinating, right down to the inset of green stones representing water and the exterior walls which aligned with the sunrise in the spring and fall equinoxes.
These Ancestral Puebloans were master astronomers, masons, and mathematicians, yet, considered savages by European settlers. I find this an intriguing time in history.
April 1st we headed over to the Salmon Ruins and Heritage Park. This is a state run park with a wonderful Ancestral Puebloan site, George Salmon Homestead, and the state of the art San Juan Archaeological Research Center.
The Ancestral site contained about 200 rooms on a large plaza with a tower Kiva, several smaller Kivas, and a Summer Solstice and Lunar Standstill Observatory. This site was occupied by around 300 people, primarily in 1088 AD and secondarily after the abandonment of the Chaco Canyon Settlements. Many artifacts were discovered in the ruins and are housed in the adjacent San Juan Archaeological Research Center. The artifacts are outstanding.
You may be wondering how the George Salmon Homestead figures in to this scenario. He staked out a homestead in 1890 and was aware of the ruins on the property. Over several decades he and his descendants protected the the ruins from looting. This preserved the area for decades and is how we have a more complete history of the area. Salmon and his wife raised 11 children in their two room house.
The stop over to see these sites was well worth it. If you get to the area, I recommend taking a tour and learning some amazing history.
Next up: Blanding, Utah…. Natural beauty. Thank you Universe!