Scenic USA - Utah

Trail of the Ancients

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Butler Wash Ruins - Trail of the Ancients, Utah

Photos by Rob Jones
Rob's Butler Wash Report

     Just west of Bluff, San Juan County Road 262 heads through Utah's backcountry, an arid uninhabited desert. Monarch Cave Ancestral Pueblo Ruins - Cedar Mesa, Utah Side canyons of the Comb Ridge monocline probably look no different today than a thousand years ago. This desert wonderland along Butler Wash holds dozens of natural arches, towering sandstone cliffs and mysteries of the ancients. Pictured here is one of a few cliff dwellings found along Butler Wash. Visitors report pictograph panels, kivas, storage rooms and ancient living quarters.
     These archaic desert cultures, dating back 2000 years, have been slow to give up a true understanding of their past. Wolfman Panel - Butler Wash, Utah The first Southwest inhabitants appear to have lived in open communities and farmed nearby fields where they grew corn, squash, and beans. They also hunted game and gathered wild foods. It's thought that these early Anasazi had few enemies. Ancestral Puebloans began to build the better-known cliff dwellings during a period from 1100 to 1300 AD. These stone cliff houses, some several stories tall, were easily defensible. For unknown reasons, near the end of the 1300s, Ancestral Puebloans sites were completely abandoned. Tree ring data from the 1200s indicated a prolonged dry spell, quickly leading to theories of extreme stress brought on by drought, overuse of resources and war. Recent climatological studies have shifted away from the so-called Great Drought, citing it was not bad enough to lead to such a large scale evacuation. So, one of the greatest mysteries of this Southwest culture continues.
     The Four Corners region offers some of the best preserved ruins in North America. Ancestral Puebloan Ruins - Hovenweep National Monument, Colorado The Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway, covering 480 miles in Colorado and Utah, leads to thousands of known archaeological sites. These well preserved ruins, spread throughout the Colorado Plateau, may one day offer answers to a strange disappearance of Ancestral Puebloans. Coupling together new studies on climate change with updated theories on religious and cultural shifts, we may someday learn the main reasons behind large population movements and their fresh start elsewhere.

   Utah Byway Map
   Colorado Byway Map


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