Each of the Salinas Pueblo Missions has a visitor center where tourists can find information that will be handy during the tour. The rangers answer questions and guided tours are available, so it pays to take a look at the schedule upon arrival. For those who prefer to go unescorted, the self guided tour books are worth their weight in gold. Each of the three Salinas Pueblo Missions has a unique story to tell and the background information about the pueblo features will enhance the overall experience.
As the name suggests, Gran Quivira is the grandest of the three Salinas Pueblo Missions. Gran Quivira covers a vast amount of land and there are several distinct points of interest to explore. This pueblo mission complex is world renowned for being one of the most important archaeological sites in the west and it is the largest Spanish mission temple in North America. The Spanish explorers that discovered this site in the late 1500s also realized the importance, because what they saw was the ruins of a very large pueblo complex that housed a large population. Gran Quivira was described as being a mysterious lost city way back then, which instantly gave this site mythical status.
Prehistoric Gran Quivira was composed of several individual pueblo complexes and kivas on a grand scale. Some of the structures were small in size, while others had over 200 individual rooms. Pathways run through the ancient pueblo grounds that now appear as mounds with only the original foundations intact. Since Gran Quivira was basically an abandoned city when the regional Spanish missions were founded in the early 1600s, it was a well suited for another church temple project.
A very large church temple was constructed by the "converted" natives at Gran Quivira, which differed dramatically from the other two pueblo missions in this area. The locally sourced stone blocks are a pale tan and gray color instead of the red rock material at the other two pueblo sites. For this reason, Gran Quivira is visually stunning on a bright sunny day. when the stone blocks glow with sunlight. Gran Quivira was also planned to be a place for the regional church hierarchy to reside and a second church temple was planned as part of the mission complex, but it was never completed. Just like with the other pueblo missions, a combination of severe drought, Apache raids and the historic Pueblo Rebellion caused the church temple mission to be abandoned in the mid 1600s. Gran Quivira has quietly lied in state ever since.
Staying on the foot path is the way to go when touring Gran Quivira, because this is a protected archaeological site and many important artifacts lie just underground. The local rattlesnakes are another good reason to stay on the paths, especially in the grassy areas. Gran Quivira covers well over 100 acres, so be sure to pack some water for the foot tour. This vast pueblo mission complex every bit compares to the world famous ancient cities of Central America, so be prepared for a feast for both your spirit and your eyes!
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