Veterans Day Weekend at Natural Bridges

November Cedar Mesa & Comb Ridge Trip 2011
Friday & Saturday, November 11-12, 2011

Right after an awesome three day weekend in Northern Arizona I was headed down to Cedar Mesa with my friend Jackson for another long weekend over Veterans Day weekend. Our destination and goal for this trip was to explore Natural Bridges National Monument for two days. I had been to the park once before, but at that time we only stayed up on the canyon rim and viewed the bridges from their respective overlooks. This trip we were planning on descending down into White Canyon so that we could begin to explore the area for the abundent ruins and rock art found within the park. This was just the first of many trips I plan to spend exploring the area!

One of the main pictographs I was looking for on this trip was the White Man. We managed to find that one first.

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White Man Alcove by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

There’s a few other interesting white pictographs next to it, including a large T-shaped design.

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White Pictographs by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The White Man is larger than it might look in the photos above. Here’s Jackson standing next to it for scale.

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Jackson and the White Man by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

There were a few ruins near the White Man including these. Both of these structures have small deep holes in front of them. The one that is closest also has two small wood beams criss-crossed and mortared inside. I wonder what these could have been used for?

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X Marks the Spot by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A look at the other deep hole.

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Deep Hole by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Next we climbed up to a ledge not far from the White Man to visit some more ruins. These petroglyphs and pictographs were found up there.

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Spiral & Diamond by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A small structure with a door stone in place.

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Door Stone by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Here’s a view down on the large ruin near the White Man pictograph below.

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White Man Ruins by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Another small structure still in good condition.

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Square Room by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A view down the ledge the ruins are located on.

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Lightning Ruins by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Our next destination was a visit to the Horsecollar Ruins. Along the way we found many handprints located in a very large alcove.

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Natural Hands by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The Horsecollar Ruins were discovered by non-Indians in the late 1880’s. In 1907, an archaeological expedition documented the site and later recommended the establishment of Natural Bridges National Monument. It seems seems that these ruins were then forgotten for a while. Then, one cold November day in 1936, it was rediscovered by Zeke Johnson, the first curator of the Monument. He wrote:

I am very much thrilled over a discovery I made the other day. I was working about half way between Sipapu and Kachina Bridges and at lunch time I was in the narrow canyon where the sun does not shine very much at that time of year, but I could see that about thirty feet above me the sun was shining warm and bright on the cliff. I crawled up a broken ledge thinking that it would be nice to eat my lunch there when to my surprise I saw a ledge full of houses, within 80 yards of the trail over which I have walked for more than twenty years. There is one large kiva with the roof almost complete and a fine ladder standing in the hatchway with the small willows still holding the rungs in place. I could not tell how many rungs are on the ladder because of the debris which the pack rats have piled up around its base; only three and a half feet show between the top of the pile and the hatch. Beside the kiva are two well-preserved stone and adobe houses with no roofs but walls which are in a fine state of preservation. A small barrel shaped structure abuts against one of the houses. Six or eight rooms with walls of fine masonry but partly torn down are also on the ledge. There is a lot of broken pottery and flaked stone lying about. I picked up six arrow points and several broken ones. You know, I felt like a foolish kid to have passed so near these ruins for so many years and not know of their presence, but someone had found them before I did many years ago; a few pits have been dug in the ruins but the kiva has not been touched.

That’s when the Horsecollar Ruins reentered the world of Natural Bridges. The park says that not much has changed since Zeke Johnson’s day. The ladder into the kiva is gone, and much of the debris inside has been removed. Sadly, one can no longer find pottery or arrowheads here anymore since practically everything has been taken away by other visitors.

Two photos of the largest ruin found here.

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Big Ruin by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

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Horsecollar Rooms by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

This site is considered to be unusual because there is a square kiva and a round kiva at the same site. Round kivas are typically found in Southwest Colorado and Southeast Utah, while square kivas are usually found in Northern Arizona. This is the roof of the square kiva found here.

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Square Kiva Roof by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A closer look at the entrance into the kiva.

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Kiva Entrance by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Many ‘bird-feet’ carvings found in the mortar of one of the ruins.

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Birds Feet by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

There’s not much left of this small structure.

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Falls Apart by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A wall stands with a large doorway.

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Horsecollar Doorway by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

This set of ruins is where the name ‘horsecollar’ is derived because of the unusual shape of the doorways.

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Horsecollar Ruins by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Another look at these unique structures.

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Horsecollar Alcove by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Before hiking back up out of White Canyon I had to get at least one photo of Sipapu Bridge.

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Sipapu Bridge by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

For our second day at Natural Bridges we headed back down into White Canyon for some more exploration. Our first destination was a visit to the ruins and rock art found near the Kachina Bridge.

This was one of the ruins I was looking forwards to visiting. The mud-streak on the back wall and the white figures painted inside the structure are very cool.

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Kachina Bridge Ruin by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Here’s a closer look at the small white anthropomorphs painted inside the ruin.

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White Spirits by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A different view with a round circular room protruding from the sand.

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Mud-Streaked Ruins by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

There were also many petroglyphs carved into the large boulders found at this site.

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Boulder Top by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Petroglyph designs found at the back of the large alcove.

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Kachina Designs by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I had to get a photo of Kachina Bridge while we were near it. It has a pretty massive span.

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Kachina Bridge by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I noticed these petroglyphs and pictographs carved just under Kachina Bridge as we hiked underneath it.

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Kachina Glyphs by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Scenery in White Canyon.

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White Canyon by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

While searching for other ruins and rock art in the canyon we stumbled across this pictograph panel containing some shield-bearers.

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Shield Bearers by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Next up we visited Ruin Rock to find an amazing petroglyph panel. There were some potholes full of water on the way.

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Ruin Rock Potholes by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Near the large petroglyph panel there were a few ruins, including these two structures.

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Two Rooms by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The roof of one of the above ruins was in excellent condition. Looks like it was just built yesterday!

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Intact Roof by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Another granary nearby.

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Ruin Rock Ruin by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Jackson checks it out.

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Jackson and a Ruin by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A small petroglyph panel with a tiny arch next to it.

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Tiny Arch Panel by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Finally! The petroglyph panel found at Ruin Rock. This is an amazing panel that has a lot of detail. I could sit and stare at it all day. The following photos show some of the interesting figures found here.

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Full Ruin Rock Panel by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

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Big Sheep by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

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Atlatl Panel by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

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Ruin Rock Petroglyphs by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Jackson on our hike back out of White Canyon

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Jackson by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Before leaving the park for the day we took the short hike down to Owachomo Bridge.

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Owachomo Bridge by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

We spent a great two days hiking and exploring Natural Bridges and I can’t wait to get back there again soon!

>> Veterans Day Weekend at Natural Bridges Photo Gallery


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