By Nadia Werby
Special to The SUN
Summer is almost over, but there’s still time to enjoy Chimney Rock National Monument.
Trained volunteer interpretive guides will bring this beautiful site to life so you can visualize what it might have been like to live here 1,000 years ago.
To fit your schedule, choose a one-hour or two-hour tour, or Chimney Rock offers monthly programs and annual events.
On Thursday, Sept. 6, Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) is proud to host a special presentation by Charles Riggs: “Recent Excavations by the Fort Lewis College Archaeological Field School at the Bowthorpe Site (5MT9399) in Southwest Colorado.”
The lecture is free of charge and will begin at 7 p.m. at The Springs Resort and Spa (EcoLuxe building) located at 165 Hot Springs Blvd. The public is invited to join CRIA for its social hour preceding the lecture at 6 p.m.
Riggs is professor of anthropology and curator of archaeological collections at Fort Lewis College, a Native American-serving institution in Durango. Riggs earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Arizona. He is the author of “The Architecture of Grasshopper Pueblo” and many other publications on indigenous architecture in the American Southwest. He is the co-editor, with Michael B. Schiffer and J. Jefferson Reid, of “The Strong Case Approach in Behavioral Archaeology,” which is the latest installment in the University of Utah’s Foundations of Archaeological Inquiry series. He is a regular organizer of the annual Pecos Archaeological Conference. Riggs has directed field projects spanning numerous time periods throughout the southwest. His most recent field work has been to direct the Fort Lewis College Archaeological Field School, which has trained numerous students in archaeological field methods and ethical practice.
Night Sky Program
CRIA will present Night Sky: Stars and Galaxies on Friday, Sept. 7, and Night Sky: Our Solar System on Sept. 14. The Stars and Galaxies program is timed for when the moon is absent from the sky. This program enables visitors to enjoy the night sky in a truly dark-sky environment and see fainter objects that the moon’s light would normally obscure.
The Our Solar System program is timed for when the moon is present in the sky but not fully illuminated. This program enables visitors to enjoy the night sky unimpeded by artificial lighting or the brightness of a full moon and see many of the brighter objects that are visible.
For both programs, the evening begins with an amazing sunset and interactive discussion at the Kiva Trailhead just off the high mesa parking lot. Visitors can bring their own camp chairs or sit on the stone wall or wooden benches that will be provided. Topics will include how the ancient people who periodically inhabited the site lived, how they used the unique landscape of the Chimney Rock area to view the sky and what special astronomical events they might have seen. After the discussion, volunteer astronomers await with telescopes to provide a closer look at the wonders of the night sky. Remember that at this altitude, the nights begin to cool rapidly after sunset, so an appropriate jacket or sweater will enable you to keep comfortable while you enjoy the majesty of the night sky at Chimney Rock.
These programs are perfect for young families and those with limited mobility. Visitors traveling with their own telescope are encouraged to bring it to the program and share it with others. Reservations are strongly recommended as space is limited.
Walk-in tours of the Kiva Trail are on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets are $12 (adults) and $5 (children 5-12) plus booking fee and are nonrefundable. In the event of cancellation due to inclement weather, rain checks will be available. Please check our website for times and to make your reservation.
Watch the sunrise from the ancient Great House Pueblo on top of the Chimney Rock Mesa at the Autumnal Equinox Sunrise Program on Sept. 22. This is a great photo opportunity while enjoying 360-degree views and watching the sunrise as the Puebloans did 1,000 years ago. You will learn about the building of the Great House and its relationship to the sun and the moon.
The tour also includes the Kiva Trail below the Great House, which takes one to a significant Puebloan village. The Great Kiva, included on this trail, may have marked the position of the sun at various dates. There is evidence that the view from Chimney Rock provided the Puebloans with a vantage point to follow the sun throughout the year.
You’ll want to bring a flashlight as well as a light jacket since the hike up to the Great House occurs in the half-light and coolness of pre-dawn.
Guests must enter the Colo. 151 entry gate between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. (the gate will be locked at 5:30 a.m.). Sunrise is at approximately 6:55 a.m. These are reservations-only programs and are not suitable for children under 8. The fee is $15 and is considered a nonrefundable donation.
Full Moon Program
The Full Moon Program will take place on Sept. 24. The Full Moon Program occurs against the backdrop of the Great House Pueblo at the top of Chimney Rock Mesa.
The program includes an informative lecture on topics specific to the Chimney Rock site, such as the ancestral Puebloan culture, archaeoastronomy theories or area geology.
Then, guests watch the full moon rise to the music of Charles Martinez’s Native American flute. (This moonrise does not occur between the spires.) You’ll be torn between looking west to see the spectacular sunset and focusing on the eastern mountain range to see the first sliver of moon.
The program lasts approximately three hours including check-in, driving to the mesa top and hiking to the Great House Pueblo. This program is recommended for ages 8 and up. There is a $15 fee for attending or $20 to attend the Full Moon Program with an early tour. Guests who plan to attend the early tour, please check in at the Visitor Cabin by 4:45 p.m. Guests who plan to attend the Full Program only, please check in at the Visitors Cabin by 6:15 p.m. The Full Moon Program begins at 6:45 p.m.
Visit this ancient Puebloan cultural site located 17 miles west of Pagosa Springs and 3 miles south on Colo. 151. The site is accessible for two-hour guided walking tours at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. and for one-hour guided walking tours at 10 a.m. and noon. The fees for guided tours are $14/adult and $5/child (ages 5-12). Audio-guided Kiva Trail tours are also available between 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. ($10 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12, under 5 is free).
For monthly program tickets, please visit www.chimneyrockco.org or call (877) 444-6777. A booking fee applies to each ticket purchased online or through the call center. Purchasing your tickets in advance is the only way to guarantee a spot for the monthly and annual programs. Most programs are at full capacity prior to the event, but we will accommodate walk-ins if space is available.
CRIA is a nonprofit organization which operates the interpretive program at Chimney Rock National Monument under a participating agreement with the USDA Forest Service/San Juan National Forest. For more information, please visit our website at www.chimneyrockco.org.
By Nadia Werby