Chimney Rock National Monument opening for the season Saturday, May 15

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    Photo courtesy Mark D. Roper
    Chimney Rock National Monument will open for the 2021 season on Saturday, May 15. Archaeological structures and artifacts, abundant wildlife and its setting in the breathtaking San Juan National Forest make Chimney Rock a must-see.

    By Nadia Werby
    Chimney Rock Interpretive Association

    Come experience a unique part of America’s heritage this summer in the shadows of Chimney Rock National Monument’s (CRNM) awe-inspiring twin spires. Chimney Rock will open for the 2021 season on Saturday, May 15. Archaeological structures and artifacts, abundant wildlife and its setting in the breathtaking San Juan National Forest make Chimney Rock a must-see.

    CRNM is accessible daily for self-guided tours. All tours begin at the Visitor Cabin, where fees are collected. Then guests drive in their own vehicles to the High Mesa. Tours are first-come, first-served and reservations are not required. Prices for self-guided tours are $12/adult and $6/child (ages 5-12).

    The Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA) sponsors monthly and annual events at CRNM, including the Night Sky: Our Solar System Program, Night Sky: Stars and Galaxies Program, the Full Moon Program, Sunrise Programs, Geology Tours, Birding at Chimney Rock, the new Mysteries of Chimney Rock Tour, and the always fun and free Life at Chimney Rock Festival.

    The first program of the season will take place on Wednesday, May 19. The Geology Tour is a 2.5-hour guided tour that explores local geology and its relationship to the daily lives of the ancestral Puebloans who lived at Chimney Rock. Tour participants will hear the events in the ancient geology of the area and learn how to identify a common trace fossil in the area. No prior knowledge of geology is needed. Guests must arrive for check-in between 8:10 and 8:20 a.m. The tour departs the Visitor Cabin at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $16/adult and $8/child (ages 5-12).

    The Night Sky: Our Solar System program will take place on Friday, May 21. Guests must arrive for check-in between 7:15 and 7:45 p.m. The program begins at 8 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Tickets are $16/adult and $8/child (ages 5-12). 

    Guests will proceed to the amphitheater for the first part of the program, an introductory talk including topics such as how the ancient people who periodically inhabited the site used the unique landscape of the Chimney Rock area to view the sky and what special astronomical events they might have seen. 

    All night sky programs are designed to include telescope viewing by attendees and we hope restrictions will be lifted in 2021 to allow this activity. But, since COVID-19 can be spread by the moisture of the eye contacting a telescope eye piece, we may need to omit this activity for the safety of all. Also, weather conditions may occasionally prevent telescope viewing on a particular date. 

    If telescope viewing is planned, you’ll then drive to the High Mesa parking lot, where volunteers await with telescopes. At the viewing area, each telescope will focus on a different feature and volunteers will change that focus periodically during the viewing time. If we are not able to use the telescopes, expert volunteers will give an expanded talk about how the ancient people who periodically inhabited the site used the unique landscape of the Chimney Rock area to view the sky, what special astronomical events they might have seen, or other topics relevant to this special place. Bring your questions.

    Birding at Chimney Rock will take place on Saturday, May 22. This program, presented in partnership with the local chapter of the Audubon Society, is a wonderful opportunity to observe and learn about birds native to the Chimney Rock area. Experienced Audubon birders will lead and assist the group, walking nature trails in the lower area of CRNM. This program takes place off-trail, on uneven ground, with some mild up and down walking. The exact location will vary. Please bring your own binoculars if you have them. Arrive for check-in between 7:45 and 8 a.m. The program is from 8 to 10 a.m. Tickets are $16/adult and $8/child (ages 5-12).

    CRIA is proud to present the new Mysteries of Chimney Rock Tour this month on Saturday, May 22, and Saturday, May 29. This engaging two-hour early-morning tour is led by a trained CRIA tour guide. The tour will spotlight a number of general topics aimed at interpreting the history and significance of Chimney Rock and the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited the area over a thousand years ago. You will learn about the connection of Chimney Rock to the greater Chaco Culture, the significance of the mesa-top Great House and the day-to-day lives of the inhabitants of Chimney Rock. You will walk both the Mesa Village and Great House Pueblo trails, learning about the structures along each trail, including their significance and uses. You will be treated to the stunning views of the surrounding countryside and asked to imagine what it must have been like for the people who once called Chimney Rock their home. The tours will be conducted in the quiet off-hours of the monument. Bring your curiosity, camera, sturdy shoes and water. Guests must arrive for check-in between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m. The tour departs the Visitor Cabin at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 9:45 a.m. Tickets are $16/adult and $8/child (ages 5-12).

    The Full Moon Program on Tuesday, May 25, 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’ 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 $20 fee for attending or $25 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 6:30 p.m. Guests who plan to attend the Full Moon Program only, please check in at the Visitor Cabin between 7 and 7:15 p.m. The Full Moon Program begins at 8:15 p.m. The Full Moon Program is approximately 2.5 hours long. 

    For tickets for any of these special programs, 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. 

    Include Chimney Rock in your plans this summer. This Ancestral Puebloan cultural site is located 17 miles west of Pagosa and 3 miles south on Colo. 151. To view the CRNM 2021 Calendar of Events, go to www.chimneyrockco.org. 

    CRIA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that runs the daily operations and interpretive program at CRNM under a participating agreement with the USDA Forest Service/San Juan National Forest.