Archeologist from the Bureau of Land Management and preservationists from Salmon Ruins work to repair The Frances Canyon Pueblito after a fire last
Archeologist from the Bureau of Land Management and preservationists from Salmon Ruins work to repair The Frances Canyon Pueblito after a fire last year. ( The Daily Times file photo)

FARMINGTON — Finding activities to entertain the entire family over the summer can be an annual challenge. But while many families leave home for their summer vacations, the Four Corners offers a variety of opportunities for adventure.

Exploring archaeology

When thinking about the Four Corners, one of the first things that comes to mind is archaeology. Popular sites include Aztec Ruins National Monument, Chaco Canyon National Historic Park and Mesa Verde National Park.

But another lesser-known option for people interested in ancestral Puebloan culture is Salmon Ruins.

Located off of U.S. Highway 64 between Farmington and Bloomfield, the 22-acre site includes a Chacoan site, a homestead site from the 1800s and a heritage park with replicas of cultural architecture.

"It's so much more than what it looks to be from the highway," said Nancy Espinosa, the curator and educational coordinator for Salmon Ruins.

She said the museum also has a new touchscreen kiosk that allows people to explore different Chacoan sites throughout the area.

"If you click on a pot, it will tell you about that type of pottery," she said.

For those who want to step even farther off the beaten path, there seven Dinetah pueblitos in the Four Corners managed by the Bureau of Land Management that the public can visit. Unlike the well-known Puebloan dwellings in Aztec and Chaco, these sites were built by the Navajo people between 1710 and 1750 A.D. as a means to defend themselves against the Comanches and the Utes, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The sites range in size and accessibility, but for the most part, the BLM recommends people use high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles to access the ruins.

Salmon Ruins also offers a guided tour service called Journey into the Past tours. There are two options with the tour. The first option, Walk with the Ancients, is a guided tour of Chaco Canyon. Another tour, Experience Diné History, connects visitors with professional archaeologists and active preservationists, who lead them through the Dinetah defensive sites.

The Durango Silverton train offers a variety of events throughout the year for families.
The Durango Silverton train offers a variety of events throughout the year for families.

Salmon Ruins provides transportation and sack lunches during the tours.

"We provide them everything short of their sunscreen and film," Espinosa said.

The tours are $295 for one or two passengers and $40 for each additional person.

The tour takes visitors to the seven pueblitos, which are rock-mason structures built on the edge of mesa cliffs or on top of boulders.

One of the more accessible sites is the Simon Canyon Ruin, located south of Navajo Dam near the Quality Waters. The site, one of the last ones built, was constructed in 1754. It consists of a single structure on top of a boulder.

While the Simon Canyon Ruin was built more recently, the Tapacito Ruin among the oldest. That ruin, located in Largo Canyon about 30 miles southeast of Farmington, was built in the summer of 1694. One unique aspect of the ruin is it has no exterior windows or doors. All access was through the roof. There were at least seven rooms on the lower story, in addition to rooms on the second story.

Near Tapacito Ruin, the Largo School Ruin is located on a sandstone outcrop high on a mesa. The ruin includes a hogan, a sweat lodge and rock alignments.

Also nearby in Largo Canyon is Split Rock Ruin, a four-room structure on top of a boulder, and Hooded Fireplace Ruin, which was built in 1723 and named for the Spanish-style hooded fireplace in the corners of the six contiguous rooms.

 Salmon Ruins features Chacoan sites as well as a homestead site from the 1800s.
Salmon Ruins features Chacoan sites as well as a homestead site from the 1800s. ( Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times )

Crow Canyon, located 30 miles southeast of Farmington, contains Navajo ruins and rock art. In addition to Navajo ruins and rock art, Puebloan images can also be found. Images include animals, humans and plants. Many of them are clustered on panels on the lower cliff faces. The pueblito at the site has five rooms and another structure on top of a boulder.

The Frances Canyon Ruin is one of the largest and best preserved sites. It consists of an estimated 40 rooms and includes a three-story tower. The ruin is located near Gobernador.

Getting your adrenaline pumping at the Full Blast Adventure Center

For the adventurous families, Full Blast Adventure Center offers slacklining, zip-lining and paint ball at its Durango, Colo., facility.

On Saturday, June 14, the center will host a kids day. Children with signed waivers will be able to use the paint ball course and zip-line for $25. Waivers are available on the center's website, ziplinedurangoco.com.

The center has two different options for zip-lining. One of the routes has six zip-lines that take riders over the ponderosa forest, and another has a series of 12 zip-lines.

The six-line ride takes approximately two hours to complete, while the 12-line trip takes three hours.

To reach the zip lines, people have to hike for 15 minutes up the nature trail.

Children must be 4 or older to ride the zip-lines. Tours leave every two hours starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m.

Going for a long train ride

Two area trains offer adventures for railroad enthusiasts.

The Cumbres-Toltec Narrow Gauge Railroad in Chama provides opportunities for unique views. The train first started making the journey through the narrow canyon in 1880. The train carries passengers from Chama to Antonito and Osier.

Like the Cumbres-Toltec Narrow Gauge Railroad, the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been operating since the 1880s.

While it was originally constructed to haul ore, it has now been converted into a passenger train to tour sites.

Over the course of the summer, the train offers various events including the Dinosaur train, based on the PBS kids television series, "Jim Henson's Dinosaur Train."

The Dinosaur Train will run next weekend.

Janet Scherer, who works at the railroad, said the Dinosaur train is designed for children and takes them north of town before returning to the museum for more dinosaur-related activities.

Buddy the T-Rex, who narrates the show, will be there, as well as other characters from the show.

"You have to ride the train to get into the adventure area," Scherer said.

In the adventure area, there will be games, crafts and even an excavation area.

"You actually get to dig and excavate shark teeth and shells," Scherer said.

Episodes of Dinosaur Train will also play in the museum.

For people who don't have children or who want a day away from the kids, the train also offers Wine and Brew trains, featuring local wines and brews.

In mid-August, the railroad will have its annual Railfest.

Other popular events later this year include the Peanuts The Great Pumpkin Patch Express and the Polar Express.

"The Polar Express is huge," Scherer said. "It's sold out a whole lot of the time. We already have some people booked for next winter."

IF YOU GO

Salmon Ruins

When: The ruins are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Where: 6131 U.S. Highway 64, west of Bloomfield

More info: www.salmonruins.com

Journey Into the Past tours: Make reservations at www.chacotours.org

 

Full Blast Adventure Center

Check prices, events and make reservations at ziplinedurangoco.com.

 

Dinosaur Train 

When: 10 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. today and June 15 and 10 a.m., 11:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. June 14

Tickets: 

Standard class: $35 for adults, $27 for children

Deluxe class: $46 for adults, $38 for children 

More info: durangotrain.com.


Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.