Tag Archives: ruins

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Overview

Aztec, New Mexico is home to the incredible Ancestral Puebloan ruins of a three-story, 400-room ancient apartment building near the Animas River.  Only partially excavated, Aztec Ruins National Monument has a variety of rock walls that display a change in building styles over the centuries.  Similar to Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona, Aztec was named for the Central Mexican culture mistakenly believed by earlier archaeologists to have had influence in this region.

Highlights

Museum, film, reconstructed great kiva, ruins

Must-Do Activity

Aztec Ruins National Monument boasts a great kiva that was rebuilt to appear as it may have 800 years ago.  We especially recommend a visit before or after seeing the extensive ceremonial structures at nearby Chaco Culture National Historical Park.  Reconstruction is not appropriate at all National Park Service (NPS) sites, but here it helps the past come alive.  It is easy to imagine costumed dancers coming down the stairs into the smoky kiva to celebrate a religious ritual. 

Best Trail

The half-mile self-guided trail leads through ruins where wooden roofs have been partially reconstructed.  Aztec Ruins also has the same T-shaped doorways you may have seen at Mesa Verde National Park and Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Darker stripes in the walls were decorative, and evidence of several architectural styles are evident at this site.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/azru/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There is an NPS campground at Chaco Culture National Historical Park, but we recommend the free campground in Angel Peak Recreation Area run by the Bureau of Land Management east of Highway 550.

Related Sites

Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)

Pecos National Historical Park (New Mexico)

Bandelier National Monument (New Mexico)

Explore More – How far away from Aztec were the nearest Douglas-fir, ponderosa pine, and aspen trees used in the original roof construction?

Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial

Overview

As a strict adherent to his own personal philosophy promoting “the strenuous life,” President Theodore Roosevelt regularly swam in the Potomac River, even in the middle of winter.  As a president with a proud record of conservation (especially in creating National Monuments), it is meaningful that his memorial lies on an 80-acre island with 2.5 miles of gravel trails leading through its beautiful and diverse deciduous forest. 

Highlights

Upland Trail, Swamp Trail, statue

Must-Do Activity

Fittingly, Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial is only accessible via a footbridge from the Virginia side of the Potomac River.  Dedicated in 1967, a 17-foot statue of the man is surrounded by several fountains and four monoliths carved with his words.  The foundation of a brick mansion owned by the Mason family in the 1800s can be seen from the trails on the island.

Best Trail

Teddy would surely appreciate that the island is situated along the Mount Vernon Trail, an 18-mile pathway that follows the western bank of the Potomac River.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Teddy Roosevelt was known as a flamboyant orator, which is even captured in his silent statue.  In 1912, he famously gave an 84-minute campaign speech after being shot in the chest by a would-be assassin.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/this/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The parking lot is only accessible from the northbound lanes of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is itself a unit of the National Park Service (NPS) system.

Camping

None

Related Sites

George Washington Memorial Parkway (Maryland-Virginia)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (District of Columbia)

Rock Creek Park (District of Columbia)

Explore More – When did the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Association purchase the island?

Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park

Overview

A flowing 77-foot waterfall in a narrow 300-foot wide gorge, Paterson Great Falls has long stood out as a natural wonder in New Jersey.  The entire Passaic River drops over this volcanic ridge, making it the second largest waterfall by volume east of the Mississippi River (Niagara Falls is first).  In 1792, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, founded the City of Paterson to harness this hydropower for manufacturing.  Paterson Great Falls was named a National Natural Landmark in 1966 and a National Historical Park in 2011.

Highlights

Great Falls Historic District Cultural Center, Colt Gun Mill, Overlook Park, Mary Ellen Kramer Park

Must-Do Activity

Start your visit at the Great Falls Historic District Cultural Center, and, if you have time, explore the Paterson Museum (donation requested).  Carefully cross the street to Overlook Park for excellent view of the Great Falls Power Plant, then take the footbridges behind the hydroelectric plant to Mary Ellen Kramer Park for better photographic angles of the waterfall.  Guided tours by park rangers are offered in the summer months.

Best Trail

A walking tour of Paterson, New Jersey continues beyond Mary Ellen Kramer Park to Hinchcliffe Stadium where Negro League Baseball was once played.  On the other side of the Passaic River, follow the river’s raceways to the red-brick ruins of Allied Textile Printing and the Colt Gun Mill.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Great Falls Power Plant opened in 1914 and still produces enough power to supply 11,000 households.  The “S.U.M. 1791” on the building’s exterior refers to Alexander Hamilton’s Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/pagr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and there is a free parking lot at Overlook Park.

Camping

None

Related Sites

Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

Thomas Edison National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Morristown National Historical Park (New Jersey)

Explore More – It cost $14.5-million to refurbish the Great Falls Power Plant in 1986; how much did it cost to build the entire thing in 1914?

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Overview

Central Arizona’s Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.  Conveniently accessible just off Interstate 17 on the way to Sedona or the Grand Canyon, it is a great place to stretch your legs after the 90-minute car ride from Phoenix.  Located in the scenic Verde River Valley, it is one of several sites related to the Sinagua people managed by the National Park Service (also see Walnut Canyon, Tuzigoot, and Wupatki).

Highlights

Cliff dwelling, Montezuma Well

Must-Do Activity

Protected in a cliff recess above Beaver Creek, the five-story tall ruin is not accessible to tourists and can only be viewed from below.  Its name “Montezuma” refers to the mistaken belief that it was somehow connected to the Aztec Empire of Mexico, but its inhabitants had more in common with the Sinagua people living in around Arizona in the 1400s.  Continue on the paved walkway to the ground-level ruins of Castle A and views of Beaver Creek.

Best Trail

To investigate a separate unit of Montezuma Castle National Monument, drive 11 miles north to Montezuma Well, a limestone sinkhole filled by a natural spring that produces 1.5-millions gallons of 74°F water daily.  The trail is only a half-mile long loop, but it is worth the trip to see the historic irrigation ditches and the 55-foot deep sinkhole.

Instagram-worthy Photo

It is unclear why the Sinagua people abandoned the cliff dwelling around 1425, but it may have been due to disease, drought, or climate change.  There were 35 to 50 inhabitants of Montezuma Castle and even more at Castle A, which had approximately 50 rooms.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/moca/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass; Montezuma Well is free

Road Conditions

Access roads are paved.

Camping

There is no campground at the National Monument, but many located within massive Coconino National Forest, which also allows dispersed camping.

Related Sites

Tuzigoot National Monument (Arizona)

Tonto National Monument (Arizona)

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument (Arizona)

Explore More – In what year did the National Park Service stop allowing visitors to climb ladders to walk inside Montezuma Castle?

Yucca House National Monument

Overview

Yucca House National Monument was established in 1919 outside Cortez, Colorado.  It is not far from Mesa Verde National Park, which has information about the National Monument at its visitor center on Highway 160.  The 34-acre site protects an unexcavated pueblo abandoned around 1300, so there is very little to see above ground.  The fact that there is public access at all is thanks to the ranching family that allows visitors to park in what is basically their driveway.

Highlights

Unexcavated pueblo, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument visitor center

Must-Do Activity

Unless you aim to visit every unit in the National Park Service (NPS) system, you are better off spending your time taking an extra tour or hike at Mesa Verde National Park.  There are no facilities and there is not much to see at Yucca House, but there are many interesting Ancestral Puebloan ruins within nearby Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which is run by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  They have a large visitor center in Dolores, Colorado where you can get directions to archaeological sites, such as Painted Hand Pueblo.

Best Trail

Sand Canyon Trail lies within Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and its southern trailhead is located just off paved County Road G.  The trail provides access to numerous archaeological sites; just remember to leave everything where you found it.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The most interesting unexcavated pueblo we have visited is Posi-Ouinge, which is accessible by a short trail from Ojo Caliente Hot Springs Resort in New Mexico.  The ground there is littered with thousands of pot shards, many with painted designs still visible.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/yuho/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The access road is well-maintained dirt.

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed in parts of nearby Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, which is run by the BLM.

Related Sites

Mesa Verde National Park (Colorado)

Hovenweap National Monument (Utah-Colorado)

Chaco Culture National Historical Park (New Mexico)

Explore More – Why did the Bureau of Land Management change the name of their visitor center in Dolores, Colorado from Anasazi Heritage Center?