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Aztec - New Mexico

    Aztec Highlights

    Aztec National Monument and
    The Great Kiva
    Recreation and Camping at Navajo Lake
    Salmon Ruins - prehistoric site
    Farmington Museum
    Navajo Nation: visit Chaco Culture National Historic Site, and Shiprock

Aztec is a small community 14 miles northeast of Farmington in northwestern New Mexico, close to the Four Corners. Throughout this region, the ancient Indian peoples called the Anasazi built magnificent stone structures—whole communities with apartments, ceremonial kivas, and plazas—in which they based their culture and trade.

Farmington is a major headquarters for the Navajo Nation. The huge reservation is immediately west and south of the town, with the huge monolith "Shiprock" a few miles west of Farmington, on U.S. Highway 64. Most people visiting the area stay at a hotel in Farmington

To get to the two towns from Durango Colorado, drive south on U.S. 550. From the east, take U.S. 64 from Chama. From Gallup, to the south, take U.S. Highway 666 north to Farmington, and then U.S. 550 to Aztec.

Aztec Ruins National Monument

The Monument is one of the largest and best-restored ruins of the Anasazi culture, named by mistaken pioneers who believed that the former inhabitants were Aztec Indians from Mexico. A pueblo with several hundred rooms has been partially uncovered, and a portion is intact. The Great Kiva, a stupendous 48-foot-wide round chamber set into the ground, is the largest such structure excavated to date. It has been fully restored.

The Visitor Center, with a small museum, is located at the park entrance. A self-guided tour leads from the visitor center through the pueblo ruin and into the Great Kiva. Aside from the normal park service brochure on the monument, the center has an excellent trail guide that will guide you through the two main structures. This small booklet, with color pictures and drawings of the stone construction techniques, is not only a good tool while visiting the park but also provides a brief history of the Anasazi. Picnic tables are located under the shelter of a grove of cottonwoods next to the ruins.

Navajo Lake

This is the state's largest reservoir, backing up the waters of the San Juan River for more than 30 miles. A pinyon-juniper forest borders the lake. This is a popular spot for boating, fishing (for trout, catfish, and bass), and swimming. There is a marina with boat ramps, houseboat rentals, and camping supplies. There are three recreation sites located around the lake, all toward the southern end. Closest to Aztec is the San Juan River Recreation Area (via Route 511). The Pine River Recreation Area is also along Route 511, at the mouth of the Los Pinos River. Sima Mesa Recreation Area is farther to the east, via Highway 64 and then north to the lake on Route 527.

Aztec Museum

The museum features an exhibit of pioneer Americana that include several old buildings -- a general store, a pioneer cabin, the doctor's and sheriff's offices, a blacksmith's shop and foundry, and a church.

Salmon Ruins & Farmington Museum

One of the region's larger prehistoric Indian sites, the ruin is located just south of Farmington, overlooking the San Juan River. It is thought to have been built by the Anasazi and occupied by later groups during the ninth and tenth centuries. There is an on-site museum and archeological research center. The museum features artifacts from the excavated ruins, and a self-guiding trail leads to them. The Farmington Museum has exhibits on the more recent cultural and pioneer history of the area.

Navajo Indian Reservation

Shiprock -- the volcanic monolith -- rises more than 1,700 feet into the sky west of Farmington. The huge rock lies within the Navajo Indian Reservation, which takes up large parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. The rock is said by the resident natives to have spiritual properties. South of Farmington, Highway 371 passes across a high mesa where the Navajo farm an enormous tract of land, thanks to extensive amounts of irrigation water from the San Juan River.

Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Situated within the Navajo Reservation, this amazing canyon, the major home of the Anasazi and is reached by taking State Route 371 south from Farming, or (better) by driving east from Farming to Bloomfield (13 miles) and then turning south onto State Route 44, and then taking State Route 57 at Blanco Trading Post, to the park. This is the best preserved of the great Anasazi communities, that once dominated Southwest life.

 

New Mexico Destinations

Alamogordo

Albuquerque

Aztec

Bandelier National Monument

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Chama

Cloudcroft

Los Alamos

Mesilla

Ruidoso

Santa Fe

Silver City

Taos

 


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