The Outdoor Museum – Chimney Rock, CO
In my mind one of the biggest shifts in the history of mankind was the transition from an ancient hunter-gatherer society to a more modern and static horticulture-based lifestyle. The transition changed almost everything about the way we live, and what we eat. The latter is actually a really interesting topic that I might touch on one day on the blog (it’s rather changed my life), but I digress. There’s no doubt this transition forever shaped our society and in the great Southwest it was marked by the development of pueblos.
As we passed through New Mexico we were able to visit several gorgeous specimens of this history at Gila and near the Manzano Mountains. Here in the San Juan region the people who settled were the Anasazi and the most northernmost of these settlements was at Chimney Rock, a rather interesting rock formation just ~17 miles West of Pagosa Springs.
We popped over for a quick day-visit to check out some of the archeological history. Chimney Rock is a stunning location dominated by the two pillars of rocks that make up its name. From first settlement around AD 950 to its abandonment in ~AD 1125 over 200 homes and ceremonial buildings were built in several villages high above the valley floor.
Why build so high and so far north? Because views of the pillars allowed the Puebloans to observe specific astronomical events such as the Megalithic Equinoxes and (even more interestingly) the “lunar standstill“, a rare moonrise that occurs every 18.6 years. Groovy!
Chimney Rock is a cool little side-visit to one of the lesser known pueblos in the area. Although not as famous as Chaco Canyon to the south or Mesa Verde to the west, it’s supported by a dedicated group of volunteers and remains an active archeological site. If you go try to get on a guided tour since the self-guided area (which we did) is rather small. And one day, after a glass or two, I’ll tell you how these ancestors have changed the way I live my life. But that’s a whooole other story….