Aztec Ruins National Monument (New Mexico)

… was proclaimed 92 years ago today (1923).

Aztec Ruins

Around 1100 A.D. ancient peoples embarked on an ambitious building project along the Animas River in northwestern New Mexico. Work gangs excavated, filled, and leveled more than two and a half acres of land. Masons laid out sandstone blocks in intricate patterns to form massive stone walls. Wood-workers cut and carried heavy log beams from mountain forests tens of miles away. In less than three decades they built a monumental “great house” three-stories high, longer than a football field, with perhaps 500-rooms including a ceremonial “great kiva” over 41-feet in diameter.

A short trail winds through this massive site offering a surprisingly intimate experience. Along the way visitors discover roofs built 880 years ago, original plaster walls, a reed mat left by the inhabitants, intriguing “T” shaped doorways, provocative north-facing corner doors, and more. The trail culminates with the reconstructed great kiva, a building that inherently inspires contemplation, wonder, and an ancient sense of sacredness.


Ancestral Puebloans related to those from the Chaco region farther south built an extensive community at this site beginning in the late 1000s A.D. Over the course of two centuries, the people built several multi-story structures called “great houses,” small residential pueblos, tri-wall kivas, great kivas, road segments, middens, and earthworks. The West Ruin, the remains of the largest structure that they built and which has since been partially excavated, had at least 450 interconnected rooms built around an open plaza. Several rooms contain the original wood used to build the roof. After living in the area about 200 years, the people left at about 1300 A.D.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

Scotts Bluff National Monument (Nebraska)

… was so designated on this date in 1919. It is one of five National Park Service sites in Nebraska.

ScottsBluff

Towering eight hundred feet above the North Platte River, Scotts Bluff has been a natural landmark for many peoples, and it served as the path marker for those on the Oregon, California, Mormon, and Pony Express Trails.

Scotts Bluff National Monument preserves 3,000 acres of unusual land formations which rise over the otherwise flat prairieland below.


From various tribes of Native Americans living and travelling through the area to our modern towns with populations made of many different cultures, Scotts Bluff has served as a landmark for a huge diversity of peoples.

Although earlier people did not leave very much that shows what the bluffs meant to them, evidence shows they did camp at the foot of the bluff. On the other hand, the westward emigrants of the 19th century often mentioned Scotts Bluff in their diaries and journals. In fact, it was the second most referred to landmark on the Oregon, Mormon and California trails after Chimney Rock. Over 250,000 people made their way through the area between 1843 and 1869, often pausing in wonder to see such a natural marvel and many remembered it long after their journeys were over.

Scotts Bluff National Monument

Wupatki National Monument (Arizona)

… was proclaimed 90 years ago today (December 9, 1924).

Wupatki

Wupatki National Monument was established by President Calvin Coolidge on December 9, 1924, to preserve Citadel and Wupatki pueblos. Monument boundaries have been adjusted several times since then, and now include additional pueblos and other archeological resources on a total of 35,422 acres.

Wupatki represents a cultural crossroads, home to numerous groups of people over thousands of years. Understanding of earlier people comes from multiple perspectives, including the traditional history of the people themselves and interpretations by archeologists of structures and artifacts that remain. …


Today, Wupatki National Monument protects 56 square miles … of high desert directly west of the Little Colorado River and the Navajo Reservation. Its vistas preserve clues to geologic history, ecological change, and human settlement. All are intertwined.

Wupatki National Monument

Adams National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

… was designated a national historic site on this date in 1946. It became a national historical park in 1998.

Adams

The John Adams and John Quincy Adams Birthplaces are the oldest presidential birthplaces in the United States. In 1735, John Adams was born in the “salt box” house located only 75 feet away from the birthplace of his son John Quincy Adams. In the John Quincy Adams Birthplace, young John and his bride Abigail started their family and the future President launched his career in politics and law. John Adams maintained his law office in the house and it was here that he, Samuel Adams and James Bowdoin wrote the Massachusetts Constitution. This document, still in use today, greatly influenced development of the United States Constitution.

The Old House, built in 1731, became the residence of the Adams family for four generations from 1788 to 1927. It was home to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams; First Ladies Abigail and Louisa Catherine Adams; Civil War Minister to Great Britain Charles Francis Adams; and literary historians Henry and Brooks Adams. …

Adams National Historical Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)

… was authorized as a national park 14 years ago today, pending land acquisition. The land was acquired and Great Sand Dunes became America’s 58th (of 59) National Park September 24, 2004. It had been a national monument since 1932.

GreatSandDunes

The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Experience this diversity through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and more!


Through the breaking apart and movement (rifting) of large surface plates on Earth’s surface, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains were uplifted in the rotation of a large plate. Fossils from the bottom of an ancient sea are now preserved in high layers of rock in the Sangre de Cristos. The San Juan Mountains were created through extended and dramatic volcanic activity. With these two mountain ranges in place, the San Luis Valley was born, covering an area roughly the size of the state of Connecticut.

Sediments from both mountain ranges filled the deep chasm of the valley, along with water from mountain streams and rivers.

Sand that was left behind after these lakes receded blew with the predominant southwest winds toward a low curve in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The wind funnels toward three mountain passes here – Mosca, Medano, and Music Passes – and the sand accumulates in this natural pocket. The winds blow from the valley floor toward the mountains, but during storms the winds blow back toward the valley. These opposing wind directions cause the dunes to grow vertically.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve


A small gallery below of photos taken August 30th of last year. Note the solo adventurer in the long-range photo without any grass visible. Also, you can see the waves on the sand in the closeup, and how grass takes root where it seems impossible.

Click any image for larger versions.

I include the park sign because somewhere nearby are my prescription sunglasses, carelessly left on the roof of the car while peeling off layers.

Zion National Park (Utah)

… … was established on this date in 1919.

Located in Washington, Iron, and Kane Counties in southwestern Utah, Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. Within its 229 square miles are high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and the Virgin River and its tributaries. Zion also has 2,000-foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs, pine- and juniper-clad slopes, and seeps, springs, and waterfalls supporting lush and colorful hanging gardens.

With an elevation change of about 5,000 feet-from the highest point at Horse Ranch Mountain (at 8,726 feet) to the lowest point at Coal Pits Wash (at 3,666 feet), Zion’s diverse topography leads to a diversity of habitats and species. Desert, riparian (river bank), pinyon-juniper, and conifer woodland communities all contribute to Zion’s diversity. Neighboring ecosystems-the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Rocky Mountains-are also contributors to Zion’s abundance.

Zion National Park

Originally Zion was proclaimed Mukuntuweap National Monument (July 31, 1909); Mukuntuweap was incorporated into Zion National Monument (March 18, 1918); Zion National Monument became Zion National Park.