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Cortez - Colorado

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Cortez & the Anasazi

This is the nearest Colorado town to the famous Four Corners, that unique spot where one can stand in four states at the same time, by carefully positioning your feet (the larger the better). More important, Cortez is the center for exploration of the prehistoric Indians, called the Anasazi, a Navajo word for "Ancient Ones." Once thriving in cliff settlements, the Anasazi disappeared around 1300 AD.

The Anasazi were farmers, growing squash, corn, and beans in the valleys and on the mesas of the region. They lived in caves and were artists: potters and basket-makers. In their later years, they lived under overhanging cliffs, and excellent examples of these cliff dwellings are in Mesa Verde National Park. Later, they built masonry houses into the cliffs. And then they vanished. Ute Indians arrived in the Four Corners area two centuries later.

It's is no surprise that most of the attractions of the Cortez area center on the Anasazi and their settlements.

They are found near the fascinating Anasazi Heritage Center, at Dolores, just north of Cortez; in the Hovenweep National Monument, east of town at the Utah border; at the Lowry Pueblo, northeast of Cortez, past the town of Pleasantview; and at Mesa Verde. In town, the Cortez Archeological Center (800-422-8975 or 970-565-8975). The educational programs include one-week sessions which feature on-site activity at a five-acre dig site.

It is possible to stay within Mesa Verde National Park, at the Far View Lodge, which has rooms with a view, a restaurant and lounge. The lodge is open from June through September. There is camping available in the park, with 490 sites at the Morefield Campground.

Aside from Anasazi explorations, the Dolores River -- downstream from the McPhee Reservoir -- attracts anglers who fish for rainbow trout, cutthroat and brown trout. There is also good fishing in the reservoir. Brook trout, rainbow and brown trout are found in Groundhog Reservoir, located about 32 miles north of Cortez via 11th Street and Forest Road 526.

The popular Navajo Trail leads into the Lizard Head Wilderness Area, west of Dolores. The trailhead is two miles north of the village of Dunton, on Forest Road 535. The trail climbs for five miles to Navajo Lake. Three "fourteeners" are there for hardy climbers, but the walk to the lake alone is worth the small effort. The hot springs at Dunton may be open for soaking, but then they may not, as the pool has been closed, on and off over the years.

 

Where to Stay -- Hotel Guide

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Camping

Cortez KOA Kampground, (970) 565-9301
Full hookups, laundry and other KOA features. Located east of town on Hwy. 160.

Dolores River RV Park
18680 Hwy. 145, Dolores (970) 562-3810
Full hookups, tent sites, drive through sites and store. Riverside sites, 2.5 miles east of Dolores on Highway 145.

For details on nearby towns and attractions
Go to
Durango, Mesa Verde N.P.,
Telluride, Silverton


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