.......... .. .. ........... "Once In A While You Get Shown The Light In The Strangest Of Places If You Look At It Right" :Robert Hunter

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater

Northeast of Flagstaff Arizona is a place that many people drive right by. They are on their way to The Grand Canyon or Lake Powell. But off the highway there is a loop drive that is packed with interesting things to see. This loop drive has two National Monuments, Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument. Sunset Crater is an area of volcanic activity including lava flows and cinder cones, with some as recent as 1000 years ago. If you are heading north on highway 89 the turn off is about 12 miles out of town on the right. This will take you to the visitors center for Sunset Crater. Along this road you will see some interesting lava flows and beautiful Sunset Crater. Sunset Crater is a great example of a cinder cone and is recent enough to still maintain it's shape. There are some nice short trails out into the lava flows that I feel are worth the short walk that have some interesting features and beautiful scenery. If you continue on through Sunset Crater the road will start dropping in elevation giving way to a less forested area and eventually high desert and you will enter Wupatki National Monument. Wuputki is around 2000 feet in elevation lower that the Sunset Crater area. Waputki National Monument is a large number of old pueblo ruins scattered over a large area. The park service says there are as many as 800 different identified ruins scattered over the large area that incorporates the park. Five of the largest ones are easy to visit and right off the road. The largest one is near the visitors center and is called Wupatki (Hopi for "Tall House"). This one is really two main structures and a round community room and a "ball court" all withing a short walk of the visitors center. The ball court is the northern most one of these that has been found and is usually something found in cultures from farther south. There is also a very interesting geological feature right near these ruins. There is this blowhole of vent that leads underground to some unknown passages and it will either blow air out or suck air in depending on temperature or pressure variables. It blows air out with astounding volume and pressure and is really quite fascinating. A second of the larger ruins in the park is called Wukoki Ruin ("Big House"). This one is east off the main road a bit but really is worth the short drive. Wukoki Ruin is built on a stone outcrop and has a tall tower like structure as it's main feature. It can be seen from a long distance away and is really quite beautiful in it's remote setting. As you head north out of the park and continue the loop there are several more sites to visit. My favorite of these is one of the last ones before you leave the park. It is called Lomaki or "Beautiful House". This one has about a half mile walk out to the main structure at the edge of a shallow canyon. There are several other small structures along the way as you walk out to the largest one. Sometimes I just go in the north entrance and stop at this ruin if I have limited time but still want to see some of it.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really cool area and if you watch Easy Rider you'll recognize the scenery here.