Hovenweep National Monument

At Hovenweep, on what is now the Colorado-Utah border, the Anasazi Indians built elegant towers that rose from the rocks. Hovenweep National Monument, proclaimed in 1923, contains the ruins of six clusters of multistory towers located at the heads of canyons.

A self-guiding tour lets visitors explore the prehistoric sites of Square Tower Group. These sites are the best-preserved of the monument's ruins and include square and circular towers, many-roomed pueblos, and small cliff dwellings. Though most of the mortar that held them together has long since crumbled, some of the walls still stand more than 20 feet tall.

Hovenweep National Monument
The Anasazi towers stand out against the landscape at the Hovenweep
National Monument.

Scientists have determined that the Anasazi constructed the towers at Hovenweep -- Ute for "deserted valley" -- in the 1200s, though their purpose is unclear. They may have been built for food storage, defense, ceremonies, or skywatching. Ports at strategic points in the remaining walls overlook the approaches to buildings, trails, and springs.

The Anasazi were probably the ancestors of the present-day Pueblo tribes. They flourished in the Four Corners region, where Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado meet. For nearly 1,500 years, they hunted, gathered wild plants, and raised corn, beans, and squash here. At some point, for reasons unknown, the Anasazi left Hovenweep, abandoning their buildings to the elements.

Hovenweep National Monument Information

Address: McElmo Route
Cortez, CO 81321
Telephone: 970/562-4282
Hours of Operation: Open daily, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., with extended hours during the summer; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
Admission: $3 per person or $6 per vehicle

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