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Wupatki National Monument


Wupatki National Monument
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Wupatki National Monument is a former
domain of the Sinagua Indians.

Before the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano in A.D. 1064, the Sinagua Indians of the region lived in earth lodges at the edges of large open meadows where they farmed. The eruption forced them to leave the area, relocating to villages in and around Arizona's Verde Valley. Here the Sinagua found red Moenkopi sandstone, an excellent building material. They cut the sandstone into slabs and carefully stacked them, reinforcing structures with mud mortar. Pueblos were typically built on rock outcrops that were protected from erosion and provided good views of the surrounding lands.

Wupatki National Monument, proclaimed in 1924, has more than 35,000 acres of archaeological ruins. The main ruin at Wupatki is a three-story pueblo. Named after the Hopi word for "tall house," Wupatki Pueblo contained as many as 100 rooms during the 1100s. Some of the rooms have been excavated to reveal the clay firepits the occupants used for cooking and heating.

Near the pueblo are the remains of a ball court built of stone -- a feature introduced by the Hohokam to the south -- and an open-air amphitheater. The oval structure, with its smooth earthen floor, may have been used for tribal meetings and ceremonial dances. Nearby is a fissure, or "blow hole," in the ground that works as a natural barometer -- it expels or inhales air depending on the surface atmospheric pressure.

Archaeologists believe Wupatki was part of a major prehistoric trading network between the Indians of North America and those of Mexico and Central America. The Sinagua made their home here until about 1250. The visitor center has exhibits detailing the history of the Walnut Canyon area and is the starting point for the Wupatki Ruins Trail, a self-guiding tour of the largest pueblo, the ball court, and the amphitheater. Other trails provide access to panoramic views and some of the monument's other pueblo ruins.

Wupatki National Monument Information

Address: 6400 N. Hwy 89 Flagstaff, AZ
Telephone: 928/679-2365
Hours of Operation:

  • The monument is open every day from sunrise to sunset
  • The visitor center is open daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Admission: $5

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To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.