Heritage Travel, Historic Preservation
Comments 5

Ancestral places

DJB in Cedar Mesa

Last week I spent three days working in Southeast Utah and the Four Corners region with colleagues from the National Trust and partner organizations on our Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah campaign.  Here’s the campaign overview from the Trust’s Saving Places website:

Ancestral Places of Southeast Utah include archaeological sites, cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and trails that tell stories of diverse people over the course of 12,000 years of human history. The area — mostly federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management — lacks adequate legal protection and funding to protect its archaeological treasures. In collaboration with tribes and other local, state, and national partners, the National Trust is engaging in research, outreach, and advocacy to protect these iconic cultural sites and landscapes for future generations to appreciate.

In two full days of hiking, I was able to see a handful of the thousands of sites in this beautiful landscape.  With Josh Ewing and Vaughan Hadenfeldt — the leadership of the Friends of Cedar Mesa — we visited cliff dwellings, saw petroglyphs, stood amazed at the views from Comb Ridge, and hiked to hidden springs.  And always we discussed the challenges of protecting these special places.

Here are a few photos from the hundreds I took along the way.

SE Utah Cliff Dwellings
Cliff Dwellings in the Bears Ears area of Southeast Utah
Comb Ridge
Panoramic View from the top of Comb Ridge
Petroglyphs 07 23 15
Petroglyphs in Cedar Mesa
San Juan River
San Juan River Valley with Monument Valley in the distance

On Friday we hiked in Montezuma Canyon with BLM Archaeologist Don Simonis, seeing a variety of fascinating ancestral sites.

Don Simonis explains elements of a restored kiva in Montezuma Canyon

My photographs don’t do justice to this unique landscape, but suffice it to say that this is a place worth fighting for.  Thanks to Josh, Vaughan, Don and their teams – along with Amy and Tom from our staff – for allowing me the chance to glimpse a small piece of the wonderfulness of this country and its peoples.

Details from cliff dwellings
Details from cliff dwellings
Valley of the Gods
Valley of the Gods
Mexican Hat
Mexican Hat

More to come…



  1. Ann Ramsey-Moor says

    Hi, David — Enjoyed reading this post thanks to Candice, who supplied the link to your blog. We have just returned from southern Utah, where we hiked in several of our favorite national parks, including Capitol Reef. As I’m sure you know, there are petroglyphs in the Fruita area of that park; and a young ranger we spoke with last Sunday noted that they can be found in many other places. (There are similar ones at Newspaper Rock, near Canyonlands.) However, your photos and comments made me realize just how many ancestral sites, sacred to native Americans, are out there and need protection. Can any of these be accessed and visited by ordinary folk who simply care about such places and would like to see them?

    • Ann, Thanks for your note. Yes, there are many thousands of ancestral sites in the Four Corners region. As you note, these are sacred sites to Native American peoples, so it is best if you decide to tour to do so within the confines of a park or where Native tribes provide tours (such as Canyon de Chelly National Monument, where the Navajo lead the tours). If you like to see petroglyphs, you should consider visiting Nine Mile Canyon in Utah. It has sometimes been called a miles-long art gallery. Parts of Nine Mile are easily accessible to the public and are interpreted. Hope that is helpful. DJB

  2. Pingback: Our Year in Photos – 2015 | More to Come...

  3. David — I am working on a book with the University of Arizona Press: Bears Ears Country — Seeking Common Ground on Sacred Land. It describes the effort to have Bears Ears declared a national monument and includes in it a text portrait of BLM archaeologist Don Simonis. We would like to make use of your photograph of Don in the text and wonder whether you would be willing to grant permission (with attribution, of course) to use it.

    • Stephen, I am glad to give you permission to use that photo with attribution.

      David J. Brown

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