As far back as I can remember, I have been obsessed with ancient cultures, especially ones that just sort of mysteriously disappeared. Of these, one of my favorites is the Anasazi of the Southwestern United States. These village dwelling farmers lived in the Colorado Plateau from roughly 1 AD to 1300 AD, and are best known for their incredible building techniques, including pit houses and multi-storied buildings constructed directly into cliff sides. The fact that many of these structures are still standing today is a testament to the architectural skills of the ancient Anasazi (who are nowadays more often referred to as Ancestral Puebloans, a term which also includes ancient Hopi, Zuni, and Acoma peoples).
Having studied Southwest Archaeology in college, I could go on forever talking about Ancestral Puebloan culture and artifacts. I won’t, however, because this post is specifically about the state park.
Driving through the southwestern United States there are lots of places you can stop to see archaeological sites and Ancestral Puebloan dwellings (Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most well known sites), and if you pass through this area, I highly recommend stopping at any one of them. These people are an important part of North American history, and the things they accomplished, as well as the impact they continue to have on our lives today, is truly incredible. Anyways, located off of Scenic Byway 12 (which connects Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon National Parks, and was voted one of the most beautiful drives in the country…more details on that in a future post) you can find Anasazi State Park. Featuring a museum, excavated pit houses, and reconstructed dwellings, it is a fun and informative stop!
Your stop at this state park begins in the museum, which houses dozens of artifacts found at this dig site. In addition, it teaches visitors about the importance of this particular dig site, and prepares you for what you will see once you go outside.
Definitely take the time to look at everything and read about the people who once lived here. The state park is home to the “Coombs Site,” which is unlike any other dig site in the southwest.
There are several interactive stations that tech visitors about archaeology. At this one, visitors can make rubbings of patterns found on Ancestral Puebloan ceramics to demonstrate the study of potsherds and pottery reconstruction.
Once outside in the heavy air, where the dry heat is only occasionally broken by a slight breeze, visitors can walk around inside reconstructed Ancestral Puebloan homes to see how they lived.
It was really cool to see the construction techniques up close.
And then the final stop in the state park is the Coombs dig site. These are the actual pit houses left behind by the Anasazi/Ancestral Puebloans, still standing since 1300 AD.
Standing that close to something that was part of someone’s life over 700 years ago is truly an amazing experience.
The state park and museum is very small, and takes no more than about an hour to see everything. But it is so very cool to see a piece of history right in front of you and to spend a few minutes imagining what life must’ve been like for the southwest Ancestral Puebloan people.
For additional information on visiting Anasazi State Park, visit their website.