Back to Colorado

After a brief hiatus (ok, it has been over a year) we’re back on the road for a few weeks. Our last post was about a brief trip to Bryce Canyon last year. Since then we have limited our travels (hasn’t everyone?) to a couple of short trips that we didn’t deem “blog worthy.” But now it’s time to stretch our legs a bit and return to the road with another trip to Colorado to explore some new places and return to some places we explored during our last trip.

Goodbye Lake Mead (for now)
The Colorado River from US 93 in Arizona

We headed out the day after Labor Day, driving south on US-93 to Kingman, AZ then east on I-40. After about 300 miles we stopped for the night at Homolovi State Park, just east of Winslow, AZ.

The next morning we were back on the road and drove about 240 miles to Farmington, NM where we settled in to McGee Park, the local fairgrounds. We stayed here a few years ago and knew that, while it is nothing fancy, they have a huge number of sites with 50 amp electric and water. The fairgrounds is a good spot to stay while exploring the area.

Our original reason for visiting Farmington was to hike trails in the Bisti Badlands, south of Farmington in Navajo lands. But it is still very hot in this area so we decided to return here at the end of our trip to do the hike. But there are a few other things we wanted to see in this part of the world so we decided to stay for our planned three nights.

The first day of our visit we drove a few miles east of the fairgrounds for a visit to the Salmon Ruins. Salmon Ruins is an ancient Chacoan and Pueblo site that was constructed by migrants from Chaco Canyon (south of Farmington) around 1090, with 275 to 300 original rooms spread across three stories, an elevated tower kiva in its central portion, and a great kiva in its plaza.

The site takes its name from the Salmon (pronounced sal-mon, unlike the fish) family who homesteaded the land in the late 1800’s. The ruins of Salmon Pueblo were excavated between 1970 and 1979 by a team from Eastern New Mexico University in partnership with the San Juan County Museum Association. The San Juan Valley Archaeological Program resulted in the excavation of slightly more than one-third of Salmon’s ground floor rooms. More than 1.5 million artifacts and samples were recovered from Salmon.

The next day we drove north about ten miles to the town of Aztec to explore a maze of dirt roads used by companies maintaining a series of gas and oil wells. There are a reported 300 arches in the area and a brochure we obtained at the local visitor center gave directions to 12 of them. We were able to find two!

Outcrop Arch
Pillar Arch
Pillar Arch from the other side

For our final adventure during this visit to the Farmington area we drove about 17 miles east on US 64 to the little community of Blanco, NM to visit Crow Canyon Archeology District, site of an extensive collection of Navajo and Ancient Pueblo rock art. Just east of Blanco we turned south on county road 4450, a dirt track well maintained by the company that operates numerous oil and natural gas wells in the area. Our information said that we should drive 19 miles, then turn left on a side road heading east toward the canyon. The problem we encountered was that there are numerous side roads there that lead to the various gas and oil wells. We explored many of these near the 19 mile marker to no avail. Continuing south we just couldn’t find any indication of the Crow Canyon site. At one point we were able to receive a weak data signal on our phone and consulted our friends at Google Maps. We quickly located the proper turn, which is at the 18.4 mile, and made our way across a wide dry wash.

After crossing the wash we came to a “T” in the road that, miraculously, had a sign directing us to Crow Canyon, about a mile or two to the north. We arrived at the site and quickly found a parking place (we were the only visitors, so it was a fairly easy task). A short trail leads from the parking area to the panels of artworkl

The Crow Canyon Archaeological District, known to be the ancestral homeland of the Navajo people, contains the most extensive collection of Navajo and Ancient Pueblo petroglyphs or rock art in the country. Etched into rock panels on the walls of the canyon are petroglyphs or rock art depicting what is believed to be ceremonial scenes and symbolic images that represent the stories, traditions, and beliefs of the Navajo people.

As you can see, most of the panels are in excellent condition. The site is very isolated and difficult to locate (as we found out) so there are few visitors. So you have to think that anyone making the journey to the site is not interested in vandalism. There are a couple of “newer” etchings made by sheep herders working the area a century ago, but they don’t significantly impact the rest of the artwork.


That concludes this visit to Farmington. We think we’ll return in about three weeks as we finish a loop through Colorado with a stay in nearby Cortez. Next up is a visit to South Forks, CO.

More on that later . . .

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28 Responses to Back to Colorado

  1. You guys are making me want to travel again!

  2. Jeff Pierce says:

    Definitely ‘Blog Worthy’! Crow Canyon looks like an amazing site to visit, glad you found it.

  3. girlonahike says:

    Glad to see you’re back to blogging! -Alicia

  4. Both the Salmon ruins and the petroglyphs are in great shape. I wonder why they only excavated 1/3 of the rooms and if there is any interest in excavating the rest. Given the treasure trove of artifacts they found, I would think they’d be highly motivated to see what else is there, but I’m sure it costs a fortune. Anyway, that would definitely be a cool place to check out. Glad you guys are back on the road and having fun!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Laura! I’m sure time and money are definitely a factor. It’s bitter sweet that the archaeologist share information on what they find but then bury it back in its place. I’d love to see all that is found sometime.

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    Farmington has been on our “must visit” list for several years. Our trip planned for there in 2019 was canceled because of a very cold winter weather storm. Hoping to get there as it’s not to far from Tucson! Love the ruins and petroglyphs. Gay

  6. Hey look, who else is back to tapping the keyboard again! So glad you got out of the hideout and explored again and tell us all about it. Although we have not been to see the Salmon Pueblo we saw it on a documentary about Chaco Canyon and its civilization (which you have also visited).
    The Crow Canyon petroglyphs really are in excellent condition somewhat similar to the Nine Mile Canyon in Utah.

  7. Nancy says:

    It’s so good to see you on your Blog again! I have been following you on Facebook on this trip. It’s been amazing! How wonderful!
    Enjoy your time away…!

  8. Sue says:

    Yay! You’re back! I know how much you enjoy traveling and exploring new places…and we all enjoy reading about it so, thanks John! Farmington is on our list also and we seem to have had lots of aborted plans in that direction! It’s something to look forward to – next time! Can’t wait to catch up with you on the road again!

  9. Laurel says:

    I’m so glad you’re traveling and I’m equally happy that you’re blogging about your adventures! I’ve had Crow Canyon on my list for several years, and after seeing your photos (and with your trail-blazing directions, LOL) we will definitely go there! The petroglyphs are fabulous—that last one is incredible. Looks like you’re enjoying great weather, and most important, no smoke!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Laurel! Crow Canyon was a great find. There are several ruins in the area off the same road, but we spent so much time looking for the canyon, we ran out of time. Another reason to return!! You and Eric would enjoy this area.

  10. jimandbarb says:

    Wow, those petroglyph are amazing! So glad to see you post again.

  11. pmbweaver says:

    I am so…j e a l s u s!

    Bryce Canyon is so beautiful. We took the girls there when they were may be 10 and 11 and they still remember everything about that trip. They loved it and so did we. Love the photos.

    Powell Point is awesome. I’m so glad you’re back hiking. That is one thing that Paul and I miss the most about her travels.

    Keep on enjoying the ride my friends.

  12. Jodee Gravel says:

    The Pueblo ruins are amazing – huge and well preserved. So great to see you back out on the road exploring. Love the petroglyphs, glad you persevered and found the canyon.

  13. Glad to see you’re on the road again and posting. We really enjoy checking out old ruins too. I’ve often thought Petroglyphs were ancient mans way of blogging about their day. 😉

  14. Chasing Dirt says:

    So fun to be back on the road and best for all of us, blogging about it! I know I’m not alone in having missed reading all the regular travel blogs that were put on hold. Some of those petroglyphs look like they were carved yesterday! Keep on exploring and sharing!!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Mark and Joodie! It was an interesting stop with the petroglyphs being from a later period. Having seen so many petroglyphs in our travels, it’s fun to witness the progression of their art work.

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