A scenic cruise on State Road 95 in southeast Utah offers plenty to see and do. Bears Ears National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Fry Canyon and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area are all located along this travel route, so there is nearly no end to the majestic places that can be experienced. Exploring is the name of the game in southeast Utah, especially if ancient archeology is a key interest. Many modern indigenous nations have ancestral ties to the Bears Ears region and all that it takes is one visit to see why this beautiful landscape is respected as a spiritual place. There are over 100,000 ancient archaeological sites in Bears Ears National Monument alone and more are discovered each year.
When traveling west from Blanding on SR 95, a sign for the Mule Canyon Ruins can be seen about 19 miles down the road. The Mule Canyon Ruins is a BLM managed site that offers ample parking and restroom facilities. For those who want to spend a couple days exploring all that Mule Canyon has to offer, there is a nice BLM campsite recreation area just down the road in the Comb Wash. Modern accommodations and amenities can be found in Bluff, Blanding and Monticello. These three small towns offer guides, trail horses, ATV rentals and outdoor outfitters, so setting up a basecamp is easy to do.
Mule Canyon is famous for being a place where several ancient native heritage sites are located. Mule Canyon is managed as a BLM fee area, because it is a popular destination. There are a few dirt roads that wind their way to key trailheads in this area and hiking through the colorful narrow Mule Canyon to the House On Fire is what most folks come here to do.
The Mule Canyon Ruins are located on the high ground above Mule Canyon next to the paved road and a short hike is all it takes to get to this destination. The National Park Service has placed a high priority on expanding handicap access in recent years by grading and paving the popular foot trails. The Mule Canyon Ruins foot trail is paved, so those who have mobility challenges can easily access this ancient native heritage site.
Upon first glance, it is easy to think to oneself that this is a truly unique place for the ancestors to call home. The views from the pueblo at the crest of the hill stretch out to the distant horizon. The surrounding forest harbors plenty of wildlife. The red clay earth creates a stark contrast with the cobalt blue clear skies. The sound of the deafening silence in this wilderness extinguishes all thoughts and serenity easily sets in.
The Mule Canyon pueblo complex is composed of a large 12 room rectangular building, a kiva and a tower. Each room in the rectangular structure still shows signs of its functionality. Some rooms were used for food storage, sleeping quarters or necessary crafts. The round shaped kiva foundation is well below ground and this structure was magnificently preserved. The function of a kiva is still not fully understood by modern historians, but most agree that a kiva served as a community gathering place, a place of healing and a place of spiritual significance. Another item that takes some pondering is the purpose of a tower in ancient pueblo communities. The base of the tower is all that remains at the Mule Canyon Ruins, but this structure originally stood quite high.
Visiting the Mule Canyon Ruins is a rewarding experience that will provide insight into the lifestyle of ancient native cultures in this region. The hike is short enough for small children, so this destination can inspire kids to develop an interest in archeology. Visiting the Mule Canyon Ruins at this time is also a good way to show support for the protection of public lands in this region. Bears Ears National Monument contains over 100,000 archaeological sites like the Mule Canyon Ruins, yet this protected public land is threatened by rampant political corruption. A little bit of tourism activism goes a long way in this modern age, so be sure to bring a good camera and share photos of the trip to inspire interest in visiting this majestic place!
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