Update: March 2004
Hovenweep National Monument

We really enjoyed our time spent at Goulding, but we also needed to journey on eastward. After a quick stop at the Four Corners for jewelry shopping and Navajo Fry Bread, we noticed that the diesel engine was running a little hot. We stopped in Cortez, spent the night, and decided to have it checked out.

After dropping off the RV for repair, we headed to Hovenweep National Monument. The photograph below shows the Twin Tower ruins.

Twin ruins


We visited this area in the mid-nineties and were surprised to see the road was now paved. When we last here, the road was gravel and the only services at the park were a small hut and the out-house. This trip we were greeted by a smiling park ranger and a new visitor center.

The ranger provided interesting details about the infamous water truck chase through this area in the late 90s. Three criminals killed a Cortez police officer and were chased into the park. They fired shots at a park ranger and missed. Two of the offenders were found dead in the nearby canyons and one disappeared into the desert. He has never been captured. Law enforcement officials speculate that this home-grown terrorist group was planning to load the water truck with explosives and hit a major target.


Hovenweep Unit

After a stop at the nice, clean restrooms, we hiked the two mile loop trail around the main Hovenweep area known as the Square Tower Group. When we were there in the 90s, the canyon area was open to hikers and we hiked to the Boulder ruin (right). Today, the canyon is closed other than a hike across one end.


Holly ruin

Holly Unit

Our last trip was a short, limited visit, and we left before investigating the back units of the park. This trip we spent some time exploring the other areas of the park.

We next drove north to the Holly-Hackberry-Horseshoe areas. The road turned to gravel, then to rough rock and dirt. But most vehicles would have been able to navigate them if the driver took it slow and easy.


First, we made a stop at the Holly site. Here we shortly met and visited with an interesting retired educator and his wife from Illinois. They had hiked the canyon trail and were stopping for a breather in a shady spot. We then continued on the trail to reach the ruins and pictograph site. The rock art panel is only illuminated by the sun once a year on the summer solstice.

Holly ruin


Horseshoe and Hackberry Unit

We also hiked the one mile round trip trail to the Horseshoe and Hackberry unit. The structures were built by the Puebloan people around 800 years ago. The Horseshoe tower was built at a canyon junction, providing a great lookout point.

Around 250 to 350 people lived in the Hackberry unit area. A drought combined with overpopulation, warfare, and limited resources probably forced the people to leave Hovenweep.

Painted hand


Painted Hand Unit

Finally, one of the highlights of the day was a stop at the Painted Hands unit (above) which is part of the Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. This included a hike to a groups of ruins. We worked our way down a slot in the rocks that led to the remains of cliff dwellings and other ruins. This area's name comes from the several pictograph outlines of hands that are found. After hundreds of years, the artwork is very faint but if one looks carefully, you can still find several.

Slot hike Painted hands


Lowry Pueblo

Our last stop of the day was at Lowry Pueblo (Photo below), a 1000 year old Puebloan village. This area is part of the recently created Canyons of the of the Ancients National Monument. This was a large complex containing several kivas. The remains of the giant kiva were worth the short hike.

Lowry Pueblo


After a quick drive back to Cortez, we were happy to learn that the only thing wrong with our RV was a broken thermostat. The thermostat cost about 29 bucks, but it cost another $250 to get it installed. This is part of the price for the joy of owning a diesel motorhome.

The next day we continued to Navajo Lake State Park in southern Colorado before moving on toward our cabin in the Ozarks of southern Missouri. The new campground is perfect for big rigs and was nearly empty. All of the Lakeside semi-circular pull-thrus have great views and only small trees. Although the lake was very low, we still have a nice time hiking down the hill and along the shoreline.


Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 3/04.