Visiting the native heritage sites of the Southwest is an educational experience that can provide insight into the way people lived in this region long before the Europeans arrived. Living in harmony with the natural surroundings is the native way of life and this philosophy is expressed in the design of traditional native pueblo structures. A great place to learn a little something about the many different domicile designs of the native people can be found at the Salmon Ruins Museum & Heritage Park in the Four Corners region.
The Salmon Ruins-Museum & Heritage Park is located on U.S. Highway 64 in Bloomfield, New Mexico, which is about 50 miles south of Durango, Colorado. Bloomfield is a small town that offers modern amenities, so this ancient heritage site is not exactly way out in the middle of nowhere. No special preparations are necessary and the roads are paved all the way up to the front door of the museum, so anybody can do the trip. The only precaution is to pack some water, because the entire Salmon Ruins complex covers a lot of ground and there will be plenty of walking to do.
An internet search for the Salmon Ruins will usually turn up information about the ancient pueblo ruins on site, but little is mentioned about the Heritage Park. For those who yearn to learn about the native cultures of the Four Corners region, the Heritage Park will certainly be a must to experience. The Salmon museum complex is the only place that I know of that offers an opportunity to to visit a full scale outdoor museum complex and a well preserved ancient pueblo in the same location.
The Salmon Ruins are remnants of an ancient outlying Chaco Culture pueblo complex. The Chaco Culture built many great house pueblos in this region and the most famous are located in Chaco Canyon. It is easy to get information about the Chaco Culture on the internet, but how truly advanced the ancestors were is just coming to light. Archaeologists and scientists are just now discovering how some of the building designs align with celestial events. The discovery of how all of the ancient roads in this region extend outward from Chaco like the rays of the sun has helped to solve a few mysteries surrounding the outlying pueblos.
The Salmon Ruins Museum offers a wealth of information about the ancient pueblos of New Mexico, so this place is a good starting point for a tour of the regional native heritage sites. The museum houses many local artifacts and there is a gift shop that offers local native crafts. The museum also offers organized guided tours of the Salmon Ruins and many other ancient sites that are close by. The guided tours even include a day trip to Chaco Canyon, which is a good option for those who drive low ground clearance cars. The Salmon Ruins Museum Chaco Canyon group tour is a very popular event, so it is best to book passage well in advance.
From the museum building, visitors have to follow a steep downhill paved trail to the Heritage Park. This paved trail can be a bit strenuous for those who have mobility challenges, so assistance may be necessary. Basically, the Heritage Park Trail is a loop that leads back to the starting point, so navigating the grounds is easy to do.
The traditional domicile structures of many native cultures of this region are represented in the Heritage Park. Examples of wikeup, teepee, dugout hut, sweat houses and Apache style timber frame buildings are just some of what will be seen along the trail. Each domicile exhibit has signage that explains the purpose of the building and the background of the culture associated with the design. This Heritage Park is a hands on learning experience and guests can feel free to step inside each domicile. In doing so, one will get gain some insight as well. Some of the structures are designed to stay cool in the extreme heat of summer, while others are designed to shield habitants from the cold of winter. Other structures in the collection have spiritual and communal purposes that are explained on the placards.
Viewing the traditional native structures in person at the Salmon Ruins-Museum & Heritage Park will provide memories to ponder over for a lifetime. This destination is a good educational experience for visitors of all ages and the guided tours of Chaco are a real bonus. The Salmon Ruins-Museum & Heritage Park is definitely worth checking out when planning a native cultural tour in the Four Corners region!
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