Monday, July 22, 2013

Mule Canyon's Roadside Ruin; a Taste of Cedar Mesa.

Traveling south on Route 191 from Blanding, past the airport is State Route 95 (Bicentennial Highway) which can take you to Hite, Hanksville, Lake Powell, or to Route 24 which will help you further west, or back north, in Utah.  Those are only a few of the places you'll want to visit along this scenic stretch of highway; there are extensive canyons, sandstone formations and Native American ruins to explore as well. Now while Mule Canyon is not the first set of Native American ruins you'll come across (20 miles along SR 95), there is a good reason they're called "Roadside Ruins". Mule Canyon is actually part of the Cedar Mesa section and is a much larger community of ruins than you'll see off SR95; consider this just a taste.

Red Arrow pointing to Mule Canyon Roadside Ruins

After parking in the paved lot, take a short stroll (1/8 of a mile) along the concrete walkway to the ruins; a Kiva and part of a tower.  The Kiva is protected by a wooden canopy holding informational signs; you can look completely down into the Kiva, but you really shouldn't be climbing around inside.  Think of it this way, would you like a bunch of strangers climbing around the walls of your place of worship?  The Anasazi that lived in this area some 700 years ago may be gone, but their spirits....?  Plus it is a preserved area, and you should just be respectful; simple common sense.


The day I was there was very sunny, and the shaft of light hitting the floor of the Kiva almost looks to be in the shape of a feather.  It is very quiet; I couldn't help but stand still, and listen if I could hear any voices from the past.  All I heard though was a raven trying to have a little conversation with me, but he gave up after a few minutes.


There is not much left of the tower.  If you intend on taking photos up close though, stay on marked trails; you won't step on any cryptobiotic soil that way.

The landscape around the entire area is a mixture of desert and brushland; makes you wonder how did the ancient people survive in this desolation.  I have to admit I am spoiled, and wouldn't do well without electricity or indoor plumbing.  Yet the landscape is not without some color; for example the bright red of the local "Indian Paintbrush".

Indian Paintbrush

Now when I first visited Mule Canyon, I wasn't aware that this was simply the "Roadside" part of the community.  I recently found out that there is a trailhead up the road that leads to another 5.5 miles of ruins to explore (the entire hike is 11 miles round trip on rough ground).  To get to the trailhead, drive east on SR 95 for about 1/2 mile to San Juan County Road 263 (Arch Canyon), and then north on that road for about a third of a mile to the parking area.  There is a  self service station to get a day permit for hiking; the BLM maintain this land.  You guessed it, another adventure to add to my "to-do" list; well how can I just see a little bit, and not want to see it all?

I'll be writing more about travels along State Route 95 all the way to Hanksville, picking up Route 24 and visiting Goblin Valley, before getting back to Interstate 70 and heading home to Monticello...a full loop you might say.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

Mary Cokenour

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