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Cliff Dwelling Exploration, AZ
mini location map2020-12-05
23 by photographer avatarJohn10s
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Cliff Dwelling Exploration, AZ 
Cliff Dwelling Exploration, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Dec 05 2020
John10s
Hiking7.11 Miles
Hiking7.11 Miles
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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TboneKathy
A few weeks ago I stumbled across a description and some photos of an impressive set of cliff dwellings somewhere in Arizona. The write-up provided only extremely vague clues about the location, but I started doing some research...one thing led to another, and I narrowed the location down to a specific area and tried to narrow it down further using Google Maps, but I wasn't sure I had the spot. I went out there the previous Friday to start exploring, and the area I'd zeroed in on with the topo maps and satellite images wasn't right. Fortunately, I recognized a landmark across a wide canyon and spotted the ruins. They were far enough away that we didn't have time that day to make it around the canyon and over to the site, but in the process of making our way in that direction, we came across a different ruin on the near side of the canyon, which was an unexpected surprise, plus an interesting cave that we want to come back and explore another time.

We returned the following weekend with a route mapped out from a starting point closer to the ruins, and the plan worked well. The final approach was slow in places because of loose rock on the steep slope, but there wasn't any serious exposure along the route. As we got closer, we saw pottery shards laid out on a boulder and several petroglyphs. The ruins themselves were every bit as good as I expected. The site was spread along the base of a cliff with multiple structures, some of them with walls ~15-20 feet high. Two structures had roofs that were well intact--the roof of the larger one was in great shape, though it was being supported on the inside by some logs and rocks that were helping hold it up in an area where it looked like it was starting to sag. That roof had a "window" built in that opened to the second level, and the remaining walls on that structure were tall enough that it looked like there may have been a third level at one point.

The largest ruin had a small cave-like area at the back and more pottery shards and small corn cobs inside. There was another cave-like area that opened into the second level from the back, making it possible to get a good look at the floor of the second level without touching the structure. That cliff dwelling and the one next to it had a thick support beam 15-20 feet off the ground connecting them, with some smaller logs and boulders stacked across--it looked like the remnants of another roof.

Stretched out across the canyon wall were numerous naturally-occurring holes/arches/small caves in the lowest layer of rock that must have made great storage areas for the inhabitants. There were small walls built in front of some of the openings to further divide them, and several of the small caves extended back a few feet into the canyon wall or down into the ground. Further still along the cliff were the remains of a few more structures and walls. They were more deteriorated than the others but at least one of them had been a two-level dwelling at some point.

As far as ruins go, this was one of the more impressive (and lesser-known) sites I've visited and was unique for several reasons. In most cliff dwellings I've seen, the natives built the walls using relatively flat rocks that were packed tightly together; here, the rocks were more irregular in shape with wider gaps between them, and they used a lot more mortar to fill in the spaces. They also built around several large boulders at this site, using the builders as natural walls and even part of the doorway in one of the structures. In addition, this site had several doorways that had been sealed off, including two in the same structure, one on the second level (they must have had ladders to use a second-level door). I've seen entrances closed off in other ruins, but never so many in one site...lots of remodeling at this one :).

Overall, the search was a lot of fun on both trips to the area, and finding and exploring the ruins was a great experience. Out of respect for the site, I won't post a location or directions, but this video gives a nice overview of the layout and some of the interesting features:

[ youtube video ]
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John10s'
74 Photosets

  2020-12-05
  2020-11-14
  2020-11-01
  2020-10-30
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  2020-09-29
  2020-09-27
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