The Butler Wash Ruins is an interesting roadside surprise that lays in store for travelers of scenic byway 95! The Butler Wash Ruins is a Monticello BLM area within Bears Ears National Monument, which is plagued by political corruption at this time. From Blanding, Utah, the Butler Wash Ruins are about 14 miles west on SR 95. The road sign that marks the trailhead is easy to miss, so it is best to plot this destination on mapping software ahead of time. Wireless communications are sporadic in this desolate region, so doing an internet map search is nearly impossible in these parts.
The hiking trail to the Butler Wash Ruins is only a one mile round trip, so most visitors can do the trek. The trail goes over sandstone bedrock terrain and there are obstacles that may impede those who have mobility challenges. The short distance should not be taken lightly during the extreme heat of summer, but from autumn to spring when the temperatures are cool this short hike is like a walk in the park.
The Butler Wash Ruins Trail is fairly well marked and the road comes into view occasionally from the high ground, so it is easy to maintain one’s own bearings. The trail markers are little piles of rock placed on the slippery rock surface, so be sure to take notice of the cairns up ahead. "Slippery Rock" is a local term for a bedrock that gets slippery when wet, so it goes without saying that good non-slip hiking shoes will be beneficial after a summer monsoon rainstorm passes by.
There is a barren bedrock section toward the end of the trail and it is easy to be confused as to which direction to go, because there are no trail markers. What a hiker should look for is the green tops of trees that can be seen poking just above the canyon walls in the distance. An old park bench can be seen in that direction too. These landmarks will guide visitors to the Butler Wash Ruins Overlook.
Upon arrival at the Butler Wash Ruins Overlook, the lush green canyon comes into full view. The ancient pueblo structures can be seen wedged in a narrow pocket between two thick limestone bedrock shelves on the opposing canyon wall. In fact, there are a few limestone pockets in this tight canyon that look as if they sheltered structures. Most of the main pueblo structure remains intact and this is amazing because the Butler Wash Ruins have never been restored by archeologists in the past.
The main Butler Wash Pueblo structure has several kivas, food storage rooms and living quarters. This architectural design has many influences that can be recognized in several other ancient pueblos in this region, which shows that many different cultures called Bears Ears home in the past. The actual timeline of the Butler Wash Pueblo dates back about a thousand years and supposedly it was last occupied sometime in the 1300s. The reason why this ancient site was abandoned is kind of a mystery, but most scientists attribute the demise of this pueblo to a shift in the location of water within the canyon. The lack of water availability made the Native American dry farming techniques nearly impossible to do. With no farmed corn, beans or squash in the canyon, moving on was the natural choice to make.
Once again, the actual history of the Butler Wash Ruins is theoretical, so it is anyone’s guess as to the reasons why this structure was left as a time capsule of the past. The lack of historical information actually is what makes viewing the Butler Wash Ruins so interesting. While there, visitors can imagine what the cliff dwelling lifestyle was like and meditate on the reasons why this site has sat empty for so many years in the dead silence of the high desert.
One look at the Butler Wash Ruins is all it takes to imagine that there are few places more peaceful for a pueblo to be located. The floor of the narrow canyon is green and lush, when compared to the barren slippery rock surface that stretches out for miles past the rim. A nice cool breeze can be felt rising from the canyon on a warm day. This canyon definitely provides plenty of shade and shelter. Even in this modern age, the Butler Wash looks as if it would be an appealing place to call home.
The hike back to the roadside parking lot is a little easier because the trail gradually goes downhill. Of course, an occasional call of a raven will let every creature know for miles around that visitors are here. It is funny how the wildlife in this lonely end of the desert has a way of perking up when performing the task at hand. Everything from ground squirrels to hummingbirds all poke around to see who is walking down the path to the Butler Wash Ruins, so there is plenty of natural entertainment to be found along the way!
Once back at the car, the mind seems to do a double take when thinking about the ancient ruins that were just experienced. Turning the ignition key that starts the modern world back up is not easy to do after experiencing the peaceful serenity of the Butler Wash Ruins. This is one ancient pueblo that simply must be experienced in person to be understood. As always, when visiting any ancient native spiritual site, be sure to leave a soft footprint and only bring home the memories of the venture!
Leave no trace!
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