Log In

Reset Password

Hovenweep celebrates centennial year

Hovenweep Castle at Hovenweep National Monument on the Colorado-Utah border. The monument consists of a group of prehistoric villages with connections to several indigenous tribes throughout the U.S. Southwest. (The Journal file)
Birthday party is Thursday at visitor center; special events planned throughout year

Hovenweep National Monument turns 100 this week.

The park, based in southeast Utah, was proclaimed a national monument by President Warren G. Harding on March 2, 1923, to preserve Ancestral Puebloan villages famous for their intact architecture, ancient masonry and rock art.

The first people to explore the canyons were Paleo Indians thousands of years ago. Ancestral Puebloans built the structures 800 years ago, and 20 Native American tribes have cultural and traditional connections to the sites.

To kick off Hovenweep’s centennial year, there will be a birthday party on March 2 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the monument visitor’s center off Hovenweep Road, 45 miles from Cortez. Cake and refreshments will be served.

Special events are planned throughout the year to honor the anniversary.

“Hovenweep National Monument is thrilled to celebrate this important milestone with our visitors, tribes, local communities, and partners,” said Hovenweep Superintendent Vernon Cody in a news release. “We hope to make the most of this centennial year by reflecting on the past, celebrating the present, and looking ahead to an optimistic future. In the next 100 years, may we continue to protect, educate, and inspire for future generations.”

Events planned for the centennial celebration include:

  • June 18-24: Summer Solstice, Holly Solstice Panel viewing and solar activities.
  • Aug. 25: Founders Day, National Park Service birthday.
  • Sept. 15-17: Astronomy Festival, special astronomy activities.
  • Oct. 14: Annular Solar Eclipse viewing.

There will also be centennial activities available throughout the year, such as a special centennial junior ranger badge (available only in person) and a variety of ranger programs. Special merchandise commemorating the centennial year is also for sale in the visitor center.

“We’re bumping up events and opportunities for the public to come out and enjoy the monument,” said Hovenweep Lead Interpreter Austin Tumas in an interview with The Journal Monday.

During the summer solstice commemoration (June 18-24), the monument plans to have rangers at the Holly petroglyph panel early in the morning to discuss celestial and cultural significances, Tumas said.

Later in the day, solar viewing with specialized sun scopes that allow safe viewing of the sun will also be available.

Art bag program

A new art bag program starts up this year at the monument to enhance the visitor experience.

Courtesy Hovenweep National Monument
The Milky Way above Hovenweep Castle. In 2014, Hovenweep National Monument was designated an International Dark Sky Park. (The Journal file)
Herschel Talashoma records information for photo documentation of the Cajon towers at Hovenweep. (The Journal file)

Visitors can check out the art supply bags with watercolors, colored pencils and multimedia paper to produce artwork. If the artist wants, the pieces will be displayed at the visitor center centennial gallery. There is no cost to check out the art bag.

“We want people to connect with the monument in a way that’s different from only taking photos,” Tumas said.

Event planning is ongoing for the special year. One idea is a mini-astronomy festivals around the equinoxes. Another potential option is to offer special night-sky photography events that don’t require a permit and are accompanied by a ranger.

“The goal is to connect Indigenous and Western sciences,” Tumas said.

The annular solar eclipse on Oct. 14 will be very special, she said, because the monument will be directly in its path.

The type of eclipse is known as a “ring of fire” eclipse because the moon does not completely block the sun.

Hovenweep has changed a lot over the years, Tumas said, but its core foundation is preservation of ancient cultural sites connected to tribes “that continue to thrive today.”

The park’s mission is to preserve and stabilize the cultural sites as they are and not excavate sites or rebuild the structures, she said.

When the monument established in 1923, there was minimal infrastructure and few visitors, she said. In 1925, records show there were 250 visitors.

Back then there were not many roads to the monument, and none paved. Visitors were mostly Native Americans, a few cattle ranchers, and residents from nearby towns of Blanding and Cortez.

In the first decades, there was a custodian who lived in New Mexico and occasionally came up to check on the monument.

“It was pretty quiet, and not until the mid-1900s that it began to see more visitation of a traditional monument,” Tumas said.

Visitation began to increase when Road G and Road 10 were paved.

The modern visitor center and ranger station was built in 2001. Before that, a shed was the ranger station and point of contact for visitors.

Hovenweep used to be managed by Mesa Verde National Park. In the late 1990s, management was transferred to the National Park’s Southeast Utah Group, which also includes Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Natural Bridges National Monument.

In 2014, the monument was designated as an International Dark Sky Park.

The centennial year is an opportunity to boost awareness and visitation at the remote monument, Tumas said. The monument includes six sites, located in Southwest Colorado and southeast Utah. The visitor center in Utah is 45 miles from Cortez, and features a campground and trailhead for the Holly Trail.

Visitation is recovering from low numbers brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

There were 28,500 visitors in 2022, up from 26,500 in 2021, and 19,900 in 2020. There were 35,400 visitors in 2019, down from 40,500 in 2018.

Visitation peaked in 2016 during the National Park Service Centennial, when 42,800 people visited the monument.

All centennial events will be open to the public, though some may require advance registration through the park.

Visit the centennial webpage for detailed information about the events and activities. The park will also be sharing centennial stories all year long on its Facebook page and visitors are invited to share their centennial experiences by using the hashtag #Hovenweep100.

For additional information about Hovenweep National Monument, visit the website at www.nps.gov/hove.