Hovenweep National Monument. National Monument in Colorado, United States

Hovenweep National Monument

National Monument in Colorado, United States

Hovenweep (17 of 44) Photo © Graeme Churchard

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Hovenweep National Monument

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The Hovenweep National Monument in southwestern Colorado protects six prehistoric Puebloan-era villages that are spread out over twenty miles of mesa tops and desert canyons. The national monument extends into southeastern Utah and lies nearby the other major archaeological area that is the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Those two monuments, together, occupy one of the densest concentrations of archaeological sites in all of North America.

The name ‘Hovenweep’ means ‘deserted valley’ in the Ute (Wikipedia Article) language, referring to a series a river valleys that feed into the lower McElmo Creek and the San Juan River. The area used to be home to 2,500 Ancient Pueblo people, also known as Anasazi (Wikipedia Article), from about 500 AD to 1300 AD.


The geological history of the area dates back many hundreds of millions of years. The history of human settlement, however, begins much more recently. There is evidence of the presence of hunter-gatherers from between 10000 BC to 6000 BC. These Paleo-Indians (Wikipedia
	Article) visited the Cajon Mesa region and traveled around following the weather patterns. By the first century BC, the lifestyle of the people had become more sedentary thanks to the cultivating of corn and squash.

The communities became more and more sedentary over the course of the following centuries and by 900 AD the people lived in villages that spread out across the mesa tops and the heads of canyons. Those Ancient Puebloans, or Anasazi, were very skilled in basketry and pottery. Most of the structures that can be seen at Hovenweep today were built between 1200 AD and 1300 AD. The Ancient Puebloans’ architecture included many shapes; there were square and circular towers, D-shaped houses, and plenty of kivas. They were also extremely skilled in masonry, which is why even their cliff dwellings are so well-preserved. A long period of drought, resource depletion, and wars forced the inhabitants of Hovenweep to move further south at the end of the 13th century.

The very first historic reports of the abandoned buildings were made by W.D. Huntington, who led a Mormon expedition in the southeast of Utah in 1854. The name Hovenweep was given in 1874 by pioneer William Henry Jackson. J.W. Fewkes, a member of the Smithsonian Institution surveyed the area and suggested that it be protected. It became a national monument in 1923.

Six Ancient Villages

The Hovenweep National Monument protects six clusters of prehistoric Puebloan-era villages. They’re spread out over twenty miles of a landscape of mesa tops and canyons. Four sites lie in Colorado, two lie in Utah.

Goodman Point

The Goodman Point group is the easternmost and largest village and consists of clusters – small and large – pueblo-style buildings that were built partially below ground level.

Cutthroat Castle

Cutthroat Castle is set in a sidearm of the Hovenweep Canyon. Located on the north side of the stream, built below the canyon’s rim and lacking the presence of a spring, this settlement is unique compared to the others.

Horseshoe and Hackberry

The Horseshoe and Hackberry groups are located about 500 yards from each other. It is thought that up to 300 people inhabited these villages, which in addition to dwellings also included ceremonial sites and a dam.


The Holly group consists of five named structures and is most well-known for its rock art panel that probably was a summer solstice marker.

Square Tower

Located in Utah, the Square Tower group is by far the largest collection of buildings in the national monument. There are towers, a castle, many kivas, storage houses, and so on. It was inhabited by 500 people.


Made up of a tower, seven kivas and terraced farms, the Cajon group sits at the head of Allen Canyon in Utah and is the westernmost of the six sites.

Visiting the Hovenweep National Monument

All six sites can be visited on a 20-mile drive through the national monument. Exploring the sites themselves requires walking.

The visitor center is open year-round, from 8 a0 feet to 5 p0 feet in October and April; from 8 a0 feet to 6 p0 feet from May through September; and from 9 a0 feet to 5 p0 feet from November through March. The only closing days are Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. All trails are open from sunrise to sunset.

The Hovenweep National Monument doesn’t charge an entrance fee. Campground sites are $ 10 USD per night, on a first-come first-served basis.

How to Get There

The six archaeological sites lie just north of the Four Corners in both southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The ranger station is located 40 miles west of Cortez, Colorado, and 40 miles east of Blanding, Utah. It lies near the Highways 160, 191, and 666. The drive from 191 is the most used approach and, although it forks quite a lot, all turns are well signposted. All main access roads to the national monument are paved; all roads to the outlying sites are unpaved and may be inaccessible during back weather.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

Other fantastic sites in southwestern Colorado include the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, and Chimney Rock National Monument.

Additional natural and historic landmarks that are worth a visit in the state are Dinosaur National Monument, Rocky Mountains National Park, and Pikes Peak.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Apr 02, 2015

Pictures of Hovenweep National Monument

Hovenweep Castle, Little Ruin Canyon, Hovenweep National Monument, Utah - Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep Castle, Little Ruin Canyon, Hovenweep National Monument, Utah - Photo by Ken Lund

Hovenweep (34 of 44) - Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep (34 of 44) - Hovenweep National Monument. Photo by Graeme Churchard

Hovenweep (15 of 44) - Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep (15 of 44) - Hovenweep National Monument. Photo by Graeme Churchard


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