Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Butler Wash Ruins

April 15th -- There is a very well-known set of ruins about 4 miles east of where I’m camping, complete with highway signage, a parking lot, a restroom, and a warning that the 1 mile r/t hike “… can be considered easy to strenuous depending on ability and physical condition.” There are actually lots of known ruins in the Butler Wash drainage, all the way from here to the mouth of the wash at the San Juan river.

The hike starts out on a trail through juniper and pinion but runs across slickrock for the last portion of the hike. Already, I could see the tops of what could be alcoves or caves with an orientation to the east. These locations are the most likely locations to find structures.

The path across the slickrock was marked with cairns, but not just any cairn. These came complete with mortar, and even then, the top rock must have “blown away.”

Reaching the edge of the canyon, structures were immediately spotted in a large alcove near the top of the cliff.

The structures on the right side of the alcove, as you’re facing it, were more complete

than the structures on the left side of the alcove. If you click on the pictures to get a larger version, you’ll note that in both cases, the cave continues back behind the visible structural remains.

Where there is one, there are usually more. The quality of what you could see of this structure in a very low clearance cave was impressive. This picture required full zoom (26x) to capture.

I spotted yet another structure as I looked down canyon, just above the trees in the bottom of the wash.

What was unusual about this one was the two different colors of mud mortar, suggesting the right hand portion had been built later or had been stabilized more recently.

Whenever I see structures in locations like this, I wonder how people accessed them. While I’m happy to photograph from a distance, the original inhabitants had to be able to get to this location somehow. I finally spotted what I suspected. A series of “moki steps” carved in the sandstone wall. They start near the bottom right corner of this picture, traverse to the left center, and then work their way upward out of frame.

Here’s a close-up of the section in the corner between vertical and horizontal. For me it begs a question of child rearing. At what age do you let them go “play in the yard?”

The parking lot for this viewpoint is easily accessible for any size rig, and well worth the stop.

This post was uploaded and scheduled thanks to the wifi at the Blanding Visitor Center on my 2nd visit!


  1. I've always been impressed with the agility of the Ancient Ones. How they managed day to day living; such as play day, carrying water, food, etc., to and from such locations is beyond my comprehension. I've seen granaries perched on the side of almost vertical cliffs with no visual way of approach.

    1. It continues to amaze me how challenging places were/are to access. One think for the granaries, but even the living spaces moved to very challenging locations. At least this one had visible steps.