Aztec National Monument

Aztec National Monument

Aztec Ruins National Monument became a national monument in 1923 and a World Heritage site in 1987. It is significant as a sacred place with one of the best preserved archeological sites in the Southwest. There were more than 400 rooms in the West Ruin and the trail allows one to walk through a series of doors connecting rooms. Make sure to lower your head. The reconstructed ceremonial Great Kiva, excavated in 1921 and rebuilt in 1934, is very impressive. The Visitor Center, built originally as archaeologist Earl Morris’ home, showcases pottery, weavings, and an original ladder. The informative video Footprints of the Past offers perspectives from archeologists and Native Americans.

Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village, located in the downtown, includes twelve buildings containing authentic local artifacts from a doctor’s office, the sheriff’s office, a blacksmith, a pioneer cabin, general store and post office, a schoolhouse, and a church. We enjoyed walking through a Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad car. We learned that during the 1950s El Paso Natural Gas Company built a natural gas transmission line from the San Juan Basin to southern California. Oil and gas wells were evident on our drive through the region.

About 27 miles east of Aztec, Navajo Lake Dam, fed by the Pine and San Juan rivers, covers some 25 miles. During our visit, fisherpeople were trying to snag kokanee salmon. It is possible, but scary, to drive across the top of this earthen dam.

Advertisements