Who lived here 900 years ago? Ancestral Pueblos still stand in the Wupatki National Monument area of northern Arizona where Native Americans once lived. Our journey today took us from the north end of the monument’s area, known as Antelope Prairie, to the southern end, known as the Wupatki Basin. Within a full day of travel one can continue another 20 miles south to Sunset Crater National Monument and hike there too, but we chose to visit in 2 days to spend more time in each place.
Wupatki National Monument was established in 1924. Grazing continued until 1989 when a fence was installed around the monument’s boundary. Our first stop included 3 pueblos and where the Box Canyon dwelling stood. We spent time at the Lomaki Pueblo, known as The Beautiful House. Farmers used to live here 900 years ago and now the area is habitat for pronghorn. The other 2 pueblos are Nalakihu and Citadel.
The Box Canyon dwelling was interesting because it was built along an ancient earthcrack, literally the size of a canyon now!
We drove about 10 miles south to the Wupatki Pueblo which is huge in comparison to the other pueblos. We are driving in the Wupatki Basin area where this pueblo along with the visitor’s center and Lomaki Pueblo can be seen. The Wupatki Pueblo was for large gatherings, 100 people or more, with its numerous rooms and ball court. Paths allow visitors to see this pueblo, walk to the ball court and the blowhole.
Obviously some competitions happened here with teams from other areas coming to this gathering place and using the good-sized ball court. Just down the path is a blowhole. This hole connects to an underground passage/earthcrack in the Kaibab Limestone and has grown larger through the years. Dependent on the air pressure differential, above and below ground level, cool air can be felt.
A few miles further south, then taking a left turn you can drive to Wukoki Pueblo. Its 3 story structure is easily seen from many miles away. Archeologists continue to study these ruins so it is important to keep pottery shards where they are and not be sitting on walls of the pueblo. The trails are sufficiently built for visitors to see the pueblo.
During our current pandemic, masks are required to be worn when walking within 6 feet of another visitor at Wupatki National Monument. I appreciated taking a full day to visit all the pueblos here, whereas in the past I had hurried through Wupatki and Sunset Crater. If you have the time, enjoy two days to see the sights and have more time for hiking, especially at Sunset Crater.