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.
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!
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 . . .