Anasazi Indian State Park
I drove half the day to get here, had to suffer through spotty AM radio reception (there was no FM), and marveled at how far from everything I was.
That is sort of a funny reaction, at least considering that Anasazi Indians beat me to this place by about nine centuries and lived here despite the bad radio reception and lack of good coffee.
What's more, they lived more efficiently than today's inhabitants do, grew a variety of crops and harvested others wild despite little rain and a short growing season, and then after about 75 years in this particular location at the edge of Boulder Mountain left suddenly and mysteriously, perhaps after a fire gutted the small village.
Mystery, yes, but one that we can now contemplate with ease, thanks to the great museum and reconstructed community at Anasazi Indian State Park in Boulder, in south-central Utah.In Boulder, at the rough intersection of 11,000-foot tall Boulder Mountain and the gaping deserts of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, whose western border is just a few miles away, archaeologists have determined that as many as 250 people lived on or near this four-acre site which was excavated in the 1950s as part of the Glen Canyon Dam Project. The site became a state park in 1960.
When they dug into the site, scientists found a 96-room community in two separate one-story apartment complexes, one U-shaped and the other L-shaped. The cluster featured ramadas for working in the shade, pits for storing food and valuables, and adobe stone houses. It is likely that 5-6 people lived in each house.
The Indians, who are believed to be Anasazi who migrated here from northeastern Nevada, used water from nearby creeks to irrigate a small crop of corn, beans, squash and gourds while supplementing that diet with fruits and berries taken from desert plants. The gardens were planted using four-foot long seed stakes.
Living arrangements were likely tight by today's standards, with multiple layers of families living under the same roof. But that cohesive family-based community would have also likely been a forceful impetus for teaching and story-telling as well as customs preservation.
But after 75 years, and maybe as few as 50 years, the village was burned. Scientists know that because structural supports for the homes were found singed from flames. That brought up mystifying questions: did the village burn accidentally? Was it burned while the tribe was retreating from enemies, or by the enemies themselves after triumph? Or was it burned during an inter-tribal fight? One possible clue: there was a serious drought in the region about 1150 AD, which was about the time the community's population was its largest.
Despite whatever reason they left, the Anasazi left us with good examples of how to live in the desert. Besides their beautiful artwork, which can still be seen on varnished canyon walls, their lives appeared to have much less of an impact on their surrounding environment than our lives have had. For example, more Anasazi likely lived in this community than now live in all of Boulder. Their architecture was also often smarter than ours is — the pit houses were dug into the ground and thermally efficient in both summer and winter.
Today, visitors to Anasazi Indian State Park will find the reconstructed ruins of the community, as well as a separate reconstructed L-shaped structure that you can crawl in and out of. There is also an excellent museum with great examples of Anasazi pottery and exhibits. The park is open 9-5 seven days a week. There is no camping at the park, though camping is available on nearby public lands. Call (435) 335-7308 for more information.
Services in this corner of south-central Utah are scarce, though Boulder has a budding collection of motels and restaurants and a gas station or two.
Note: For the next two weeks Jeff has expanded his travels outside of Utah. Even travel writers need a vacation. You may consider holding your email questions/comments until he gets back!
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