The Yucca House National Monument is a large unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site that preserves one of the most important archaeological site in south-western Colorado. Located in Montezuma County between the towns of Cortez and Towaoc in Colorado, the United States National Monument is situated on 34 acres of land at the foot of Sleeping Ute Mountain in the Montezuma Valley that is home to a diverse array of fauna and flora. Called the ‘mountain with lots of yucca growing on it’ by the Ute people, the Yucca House National Monument has remained largely untouched for the past 800 years.
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Architecture and History
The site of the Yucca House is one of many Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) village locations in the Montezuma Valley occupied by various tribes between AD 1100 and 1300. Two unexcavated settlement areas include a western compound made from adobe with up to 600 rooms and ten kivas, and a lower L-shaped pueblo with a plaza, eight rooms, and a large kiva. Nearby the two settlements are the ancient pueblo village of Mud Springs, which is situated at the head of McElmo Canyon and Navajo Springs. The Yucca House Pueblo dwellers abandoned their homes like the other nearby ancient Pueblo peoples, but an excavation of the area is yet to be completed.
The West Complex is a horseshoe-shaped dwelling that is cut by a spring and includes the Upper House and two enclosed kivas. Boasting a similar layout to those of a variety of late Pueblo III period villages (built post AD 1200), including the Sand Canyon Pueblo, the West Complex features multiple room blocks, several towers, a large central kiva and more than 100 smaller ones, and a circular two-walled structure.
The Lower House is an L-shaped, rectangular room block that features eight rooms on the first floor and several rooms on the second floor. A plaza is located south of the of the L-shaped room block and is defined by an earthen berm along the southeast edge and flat masonry walls on the south and west. The center of the plaza features a large kiva.
Archaeological studies and excavations were conducted by various people including William Henry Holmes in 1878, J. Walter Fewkes in 1918, and Earl Morris from the Museum of Natural History in New York in the late 1910s. Studies found that the Ancestral Puebloans built their villages around springs that were used for drinking, irrigating crops, and making mud mortar for their dwellings. The springs also attracted a diverse variety of fauna and flora, and today the monument preserves and protects the local vegetation, which includes cacti, four-winged saltbush, sagebrush, and several species of grasses, as well as mule deer, bobcats, rattlesnakes, and songbirds.
The Yucca House National Monument was proclaimed a National Monument by President Woodrow Wilson on 19th December 1919 as a research monument to preserve the animals, plants and ancient ruins in the Yucca House area. Hallie Ismay was the unofficial steward of the Yucca House site for more than 60 years. Today, Yucca House is surrounded by rolling farmlands and boasts beautiful views across the Montezuma Valley.
The Yucca House National Monument is located at 19751 Road B in Cortez and is set in the middle of private land, so instruction needs to be obtained from the Mesa Verde National Park. There are no facilities at Yucca House, so visitors need to bring their food and water, which can be purchased at the nearby town of Cortez, which is about 10 miles away. The Yucca House National Monument is open year-round, and admission is free.
19751 Road B, Cortez, CO 81321, Phone: 970-529-4465