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Date of visit:
January 21, 2002

For location of this site in NM, click on the map:
 Location of Salmon-Aztec Ruins ...

We rate these sites a:

Site Highlights:
 Easy access
 Small and intimate
 Good restorations
 Salmon a homestead
 Aztec Kiva - WOW!
 Easily walked
 Chacoan architecture
 Camera worthy


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Go to second part of trip - Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR
Go to third part of trip - Mesa Verde National Park
Go to fourth part of trip - Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Salmon Ruins
Salmon RuinsDuring archaeological excavation, it was determined that the Salmon Ruin is a multiple, component site, The initial builders and occupants, referred to as the Primary occupation, were colonists from or had very close ties with the inhabitants of Chaco Canyon, some 61 kilometers directly south of Salmon. Absolute dates have established the initial construction phase during A. D. 1088-1090.

Fellow tourists at the ruins...The site was two stories high along the back three rows of rooms within the main complex and some of the central rooms of the wings. During excavation a total of 110+ ground floor rooms and an additional 67+ second story rooms were defined for the original town. Based on an interpolation of room counts from excavated areas into areas having undergone limited excavation, the estimated total room count for the ground floor of the original Chacoan structure is approximately 150 rooms.

Primary occupation inhabitants abandoned the site circa A. D. 1130. There was a general hiatus in absolute dates up until circa A. D. 1185. During this hiatus, the site underwent a period of minimal occupation, which has been termed the Intermediate occupation. The site was reoccupied during the end of the 12th century, circa A. D. 1185. This major reoccupation of the site was termed the Secondary occupation. Based on artifact assemblages and the style of architectural modifications, the final occupants of the Salmon Pueblo were from or had very close ties with the inhabitants of the Mesa Verde area, some 77 kilometers northwest of Salmon.

Salmon Ruin is named for George Salmon who homesteaded the property in the late 1800's. His family protected the ruin from vandals and treasure hunters for more than 90 years. His homestead and outbuildings remain standing near the ruin.

Site Gallery - Salmon Ruins
View Salmon Ruins Panorama
Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins
Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins
Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins
Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins
Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins Touring Salmon Ruins

Aztec Ruins
Aztec RuinsAztec stood midway between two centers of Ancestral Pueblo culture. Fifty-five miles to the south lay Chaco, a sprawling community of large sites that flourished between 1050 and 1150. The builders at Aztec, if not actually Chacoans, were strongly influenced by Chacoan ideas in such matters as architecture, ceramics, and ceremonial life. The first inhabitants built a variety of structures and laid the foundations for others.

Their community flourished as a regional trade, ceremonial, and administrative center for nearly half a century. A few decades later the site saw renewed construction and use by Ancestral Puebloans once again. These people were culturally akin to the people of Mesa Verde, the rugged mesa country 40 miles northwest. This second group remodeled buildings and completed others begun earlier, largely retaining the original building plans, but using masonry techniques and building styles characteristic of Mesa Verde. They, like their predecessors, used the area for a few generations and moved on, leaving behind well preserved structures that tell of their lives in this region. Today many Southwestern Indians are their descendants, maintaining strong cultural and spiritual ties to this site.

It is the river that makes this land hospitable. Rising in the San Juan Mountains to the north, the Animas flows year round across the plains of northwestern New Mexico. Near Aztec it runs through a slender Valley lush with cottonwoods and willows. Farmers have long made a good living raising crops In the valley’s fertile bottomlands.

The earliest farmers were ancestors to many Southwestern Indians today. For many years archeologists called the ancient people of the Colorado Plateau "Anasazi," a word originating with the Navajo language. Today, Pueblo people prefer the term "Ancestral Pueblo” to describe their ancestors.

Long before they began living on this site, scores of their stone pueblos, large and small, dotted the drainages and terraces of the lower valley. Sometime late in the 11th century, a group began constructing a large community on rising ground overlooking the river. This community consisted of several great houses, tri-walled kivas, small residential pueblos, earthworks, roads, and great kivas.

Aerial view of Aztec RuinsBy 1111, the people began collecting wood from distant sources to build the largest great house on the site, now known as the West Ruin. They erected most of the building within a decade. This structure resembled the great houses built at Chaco half a century earlier. It consisted of about 400 interconnected rooms on three levels and numerous kivas, including a great kiva in the plaza used for community-wide ceremonies. The massive walls consisted of a core of unshaped stones and mud mortar sandwiched between dressed sandstone exteriors.

The settlement prospered for several decades as an administrative, trade, and ceremonial center. But by 1160 activity diminished as the Chacoan social and economic system waned. An extended drought that set in about 1130 may have contributed to the decline.

About 1200 the area saw renewed activity. People resumed the building effort begun almost a century earlier. While they left some structures unused, they remodeled others by adding new rooms, sealing doorways, altering kivas, and repairing masonry and roofs. Nearby they constructed another great house - now known as the East Ruin - on the foundation laid out by the earlier builders. They carried on Mesa Verde ways In pottery and tufts and traded their wares over wide area.

The site continued as a community center for perhaps a century before the population of the area again began to decline. By 1300 the people had moved from Aztec as well as the entire San Juan Basin. Why the people left Is not clear. This was a time of population shifts in the Southwest. Perhaps It was drought, perhaps depletion of resources. Whatever it was, they made their way southeast to the better watered country of the Rio Grande and south and west into Arizona, where their descendants, the Pueblo Indians, live today. They have not forgotten the site, however. Many Southwestern tribes maintain deep spiritual and cultural ties to the area through their tribal migration stories and clan histories. They continue to visit and care for the site, paying respect to their ancestors and a place they consider sacred.

Site Gallery - Aztec Ruins
Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins
Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins
Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins
Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins
Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins Touring Aztec Ruins

Text source and maps extracted from brochures provided by each respective site.
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