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.
There’s a few other interesting white pictographs next to it, including a large T-shaped design.
The White Man is larger than it might look in the photos above. Here’s Jackson standing next to it for scale.
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?
A look at the other deep hole.
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.
A small structure with a door stone in place.
Here’s a view down on the large ruin near the White Man pictograph below.
Another small structure still in good condition.
A view down the ledge the ruins are located on.
Our next destination was a visit to the Horsecollar Ruins. Along the way we found many handprints located in a very large alcove.
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.
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.
A closer look at the entrance into the kiva.
Many ‘bird-feet’ carvings found in the mortar of one of the ruins.
There’s not much left of this small structure.
A wall stands with a large doorway.
This set of ruins is where the name ‘horsecollar’ is derived because of the unusual shape of the doorways.
Another look at these unique structures.
Before hiking back up out of White Canyon I had to get at least one photo of Sipapu Bridge.
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.
Here’s a closer look at the small white anthropomorphs painted inside the ruin.
A different view with a round circular room protruding from the sand.
There were also many petroglyphs carved into the large boulders found at this site.
Petroglyph designs found at the back of the large alcove.
I had to get a photo of Kachina Bridge while we were near it. It has a pretty massive span.
I noticed these petroglyphs and pictographs carved just under Kachina Bridge as we hiked underneath it.
Scenery in White Canyon.
While searching for other ruins and rock art in the canyon we stumbled across this pictograph panel containing some shield-bearers.
Next up we visited Ruin Rock to find an amazing petroglyph panel. There were some potholes full of water on the way.
Near the large petroglyph panel there were a few ruins, including these two structures.
The roof of one of the above ruins was in excellent condition. Looks like it was just built yesterday!
Another granary nearby.
Jackson checks it out.
A small petroglyph panel with a tiny arch next to it.
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.
Jackson on our hike back out of White Canyon
Before leaving the park for the day we took the short hike down to Owachomo Bridge.
We spent a great two days hiking and exploring Natural Bridges and I can’t wait to get back there again soon!