THE OLD SOUTHWEST
OUR journey in the Old Southwest will begin at Grand Canyon, reached easily by rail and highway from east and west. It is quite sure that the reactions of those who stand today on the South Rim and look at the great spectacle are far different from the emotions of that little band of Spanish soldiers who, led by Don Lopez de Cardenas in 1540, met with such keen disappointment when they realized that no gold was to be found thereonly a view!
In 1896, when John Muir visited the Canyon, he wrote in his journal: "At 6:15 p. m. I ran up to the verge of the Canyon and had my first memorable and overwhelming view in the light and shade of the setting sun. It is the most tremendous expression of erosion and the most ornate and complicated I ever saw. Man seeks the finest marbles for sculptures; Nature takes cinders, ashes, sediments, and makes all divine in fineness of beautyturrets, towers, pyramids, battlemented castles, rising in glowing beauty from the depths of this canyon of canyons noiselessly hewn from the smooth mass of the featureless plateau." He thought the storm "dimmed. . . with the silken brush of the rain" the wondrous structure. Later he wrote: "It seems a gigantic statement, for even Nature to make, all in one mighty stone word. Wildness so Godful, cosmic, primeval, bestows a new sense of earth's beauty and size. . . . But the colors, the living, rejoicing colors, chanting, morning and evening, in chorus to heaven! Whose brush or pencil, however lovingly inspired, can give us these?"
The first Government exploration party to go into the region was under the leadership of Lieutenant Ives of the War Department, who in 1858 traveled by steamboat up the Colorado River to Black Canyon, in which Boulder Dam is now located. In 1869-71, Major J. W. Powell traveled with rowboats down the Colorado River. His studies gave the reading world the first scientific descriptions of the geological formation of the canyon walls.
The workaday explanation of the beauty of the Grand Canyon lies in erosion. The Colorado River contributed its share, working away many an eon, and the winds and the rain and the plant life joined in to produce a picture such as can be seen nowhere else in the world. Of course there was a long geological history before this last chapter. The Archean Age is represented by the crystalline schists, gneisses, and granites at the bottom of the Canyon. Summarizing the scientific account presented in that charming book on the "Grand Canyon Country," by M. R. Tillotson, so many years superintendent of the park, and Frank J. Taylor, it is recorded that the surface of these rocks, after they had been subjected to such great heat and internal pressure that many were in nearly vertical positions, which later eroded to a plain, was submerged with the water and sediments of the Algonkian era. After the deposits came to be some 12,000 feet in thickness, there was an extensive uplifting of the earth's crust, tilting the rocks above the surface of the ocean in which they were laid. After erosion had produced a rolling plain there came a second submergence, and the Cambrian Age had been reached. The succeeding geological ages left little writing to read, but in the early Carboniferous Age there was a third submergence, during which was deposited the calcium carbonate now represented by the 500 vertical feet of red-wall limestone of the Mississippian Age. Then came the Permian Age which left some of the most primitive reptilian tracks, and the Coconino sandstones. Then followed the fourth and long-continued submergence, and from this we have the Kaibab limestone, the topmost stratum of the Canyon walls, though it is estimated that there was once a deposit of 6,000 or 7,000 feet on top of the limestone. This particular stone page may be read at Cedar Mountain, two miles from Desert View. In the Vermillion Cliffs and in Zion and Bryce, complete successions of these and younger formations may be seen. The erosion which removed this overlay required many millions of years. And then the Colorado River flowed into the scene, and with its burden of sediment and loose gravel as cutting tools, it has hewn for us this great Grand Canyon.
The National Park overlooks the Canyon. From the South Rim, which is some 7,000 feet in altitude, there are hundreds of marvelous lookouts along the fifty miles of rim drives. This part of the park is open the year round. Excellent accommodations may be had at El Tovar, built in 1904, at Bright Angel Lodge and cabins, rebuilt in recent years, and at the public camp in the pleasant forest.
The Grand Canyon opens up an entirely new world. Every visitor should read the Tillotson and Taylor book on the ground. The Park Service issues two interesting Guide Leaflets which should be in the hands of everyone who takes the Desert View Drive and the West Rim Drive. These, with the regular park bulletin, and such other books as may be selected from the bibliography, add greatly to the understanding of the Canyon. There is an observation station at Yavapai Point, where there is a magnificent view of the Canyon. From the parapet, powerful glasses are trained on some of the most interesting points. Pertinent exhibits in the interior room have been arranged to present an illustrated account of the geological history.
The mule trips on the trails down into the floor of the Canyon are always exciting. Horace M. Albright, in the foreword to the Tillotson and Taylor book, remarked: "I have always felt sorry for the traveler so rushed that he can see the Grand Canyon only from the rim. The descent into the great gorge is one of the real adventures of a lifetime. It is only by such a trip that one may know the Grand Canyon intimately or may appreciate the tremendous scope of this outstanding example of erosion."
The entire population of the Canyon gathers every afternoon to see the Hopi dances in front of Hopi House, built across the road from El Tovar for the display of Hopi arts and crafts. The Navajos make their displays outside of hogans typical of those inhabited by their tribe.
From the South Rim one may fly across the Canyon to the North Rim, one may pack across on the trail, or one may drive by Desert View, across the Navajo Bridge, past the Vermillion Cliffs, and then through the lovely Kaibab Forest to the headquarters on the north side of the Canyon. The Grand Canyon Lodge and the campground offer facilities for living and observation 8,000 feet above the sea, enjoyable only in summer, for here the snow blankets the Canyon all winter.
For breath-taking beauty, for geological demonstration, for contact with surviving local Indians, and for trail trips and motor drives of unparalleled and absorbing interest, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado leads in its class!
ZION AND BRYCE NATIONAL PARKS
From the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, a drive of some 125 miles by way of the spectacularly beautiful Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway brings the traveler to Zion Canyon. This approach reveals through the windows of the highway tunnels the first fine views of the highly colored cliffs flanking the valley.
According to the Park Service bulletin: "A 'Yosemite Valley done in oils' comes close to a description of the principal feature of Zion National Park. This gorgeous valley has about the same dimensions as the famous Yosemite Valley. Extraordinary as are the sandstone forms, the color is what most amazes. The deep red of the Vermillion Cliff is the prevailing tint. Two-thirds of the way up, these marvelous walls and temples are painted gorgeous reds; then, above the reds, they rise in startling white. Sometimes the white is surmounted by a cap of vivid red, remains of another red stratum which once overlay all. The Vermillion Cliff rests upon 350 feet of even a more insistent red, relieved by mauve and purple shale. That in turn rests upon a hundred feet of other variegated strata. Through these successive layers of sands and shales and limestones, the Virgin River has cut its amazing valley. The entrance is between two gigantic stone masses of complicated architectural proportions which are named the West Temple and The Watchman."
But the most impressive of all the remarkable mountains of rock is the Great White Throne which rises sheer from the valley floor to display an ethereal white crown surmounting its royal red base. There is something unreal about this huge red and white stone. It seems not to be made of the same material we are accustomed to find forming the earth's surface.
There are twenty miles of road in the park, introducing visitors to the heart of the Canyon. The trailssome twenty-five miles of thempermit those who desire, to walk far up the valley in company with a ranger naturalist or alone, and to explore a number of the high flanking cliffs.
From Zion one may retrace one's way for a short distance over the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway and then turn north for Bryce. The Grand Canyon is much more stupendous in size and in the heaviness with which the color is laid on. Bryce, being smaller and easier to bring into the perspective of vision, is more like a delicate miniature, with beautiful but thinner colors. The Grand Canyon seems to be done in oils, Bryce in water colors.
There seems little of remarkable interest as one arrives at the headquarters building. But when one walks to the edge of the abyss, there lies Bryce, like a complicated carved cameo, done in shades of white, pink, and deep rose-reds, or, as the Indians said, "red rocks standing like men in a bowl-shaped canyon."
The trail down into the floor of the Canyon is an easy one, either on foot or on horseback. Cut off from all familiar forms of vegetation, surrounded by architectural masses, with fretted ornamentation almost Byzantine in its elaborate sculpturing, one could imagine here a deserted city of the long-distant past.
Many visitors leave Bryce to drive to Cedar City by a route which permits a detour to Cedar Breaks National Monument, another brilliant splash of color. The highway to Cedar City drops down through a rugged canyon by the side of rushing waters and is in itself well worth the trip.
Not very far from Zion and Bryce lies the Escalante, described by Merel Sager as "200 miles of countless, fantastic, weird monuments and pinnacles, slowly yielding to the relentless forces of wind and water." Cut by "the mighty Colorado, mysterious, treacherous, forbidding, carving its meandering way through red sandstone canyons, so rugged that they have thus far successfully defied east and west commutation of human kind in the whole of southeastern Utah," the area is a proposed national monument.
PROPOSED ESCALANTE NATIONAL MONUMENT, UTAH
Big Bend National Park, lying on the border between Texas and Mexico, was authorized to become a national park when the lands shall have been purchased by private and state funds and turned over to the United States Government, free of cost.
Herbert Maier has described the region: "The Big Bend country of Texas is that triangular portion in the southwestern part of the State inclosed by the big bend of the Rio Grande. The romance of the border frontier still lingers in this last wilderness of Texas. No railroad traverses it. Its few roads are largely makeshift, or improvised wagon trails, serving its few ranches and mining claims. The Chisos Mountains range from low, semi-desert slopes to high, wooded canyons and peaks. Between the 3,000- and 8,000-foot elevations are found the Lower and Upper Sonoran Zones, the Transition, and an indication of the Canadian Zone." Then there is the Rio Grande, which "in its tortuous course, cuts through three steep-walled limestone canyons, about 2,000 feet in depth . . . and meanders over the river plains between."
In the southeastern part of New Mexico, easily accessible from Texas cities and from the nearby town of Carlsbad, are the most wonderful caverns yet discovered. If they are not colorful canyons, they are certainly colorful caverns. They are so large that it takes hours merely to walk through the principal chambers open to the public. Since the caverns could not be seen in the dark, and since torches could not illumine the distant ceilings, the caverns are equipped with an elaborate system of electric lighting. The extent of the caverns no one yet knows. According to the Park Service bulletin, there are now three main levels, 750 feet, 900 feet, and 1,320 feet underground. It is only to the higher level that visitors are conducted through the seven miles of corridors and chambers. Carlsbad is much visited.
The sculpturing of Carlsbad is as elaborate as that of Bryce or Cedar Breaks, and though not as brilliant, there are yet very lovely colors to be found in the caverns, as in the "Veiled Statue" in the Green Lake Room, or in the gleaming onyx of the walls of the King's Palace. These fanciful names but reflect the sumptuous effect of these great underground chambers.
Geologically, "this (Carlsbad) limestone was formed originally in a shallow inland extension of the ocean some 200 million years agoin the Permian period, which followed the time of greatest coal forming throughout the world. After this period the area was dry land, but it may have been resubmerged and covered by sediments at a later period.
"The uplifting and folding movements that formed the Rocky Mountains also raised the Carlsbad area above sea level. The Guadalupe Mountains near Carlsbad are outliers of that great mountain system. The uplift of the region took place about the end of the 'Age of Dinosaurs' (Cretaceous period)60 million years ago." Since that time the streams have carved their deep gorges, vast caverns have been hollowed, and within them, still later, the amazing decorative deposits were formed.
In southwestern Colorado, reached by highways from Arizona and New Mexico and by rail and highways from Colorado, lies Mesa Verde National Park. Named for the green of the junipers and piñnons, it is chiefly interesting for the ruined habitations of the Indians who once dwelt there. Dr. A. E. Douglass, director of Steward Observatory, University of Arizona, has studied the tree rings in the tough surviving timbers of the cliff dwellings, and by an ingenious matching of the beams to cover the different widths of rings for different years of rain and drought, he has determined that the masonry in Mug House, the earliest, dates back to 1066, the year that William the Conqueror became king of England. Cliff Palace was built, added to, and repaired from 1073 to 1273. Balcony House dates from 1190 to 1272; Spruce Tree House, 1230-1274.
The archeologists reveal for us a fascinating picture of the past. From the great mass of pottery and utensils rescued from the permanent dwellings of the Mesa Verde, the archeologists tell us that the second agricultural Basket Makers once lived in these ruins. By skeletons which have been found, they conclude that the long-headed Basket Makers were displaced, at least in part, by the round-headed Pueblos.
Visitors who climb about over the ruins of Cliff Palace, Balcony House, Square Tower House, and many others, may have the life of the one-time inhabitants reconstructed for them by the park guides. From the Park Service bulletin we may read: "The population was composed of a number of units, possibly clans, each of which had its more or less distinct social organization, as indicated in the arrangement of the rooms. The rooms occupied by a clan were not necessarily connected, and generally neighboring rooms were distinguished from one another by their uses. Thus, each clan had a room for its men, which is called the 'kiva.' Each clan had also a number of rooms which may be styled living rooms, and other enclosures for granaries. The corn was ground into meal in another room containing the metate set in a stone bin or trough. Sometimes the rooms had fireplaces, although these were generally in the plazas or on the housetops. All these different rooms, taken together, constituted the houses that belonged to one clan. . . . From the number of these rooms it would appear that there were at least 23 social units or clans in Cliff Palace. . . .
"In addition to their ability as architects and masons, the cliff dwellers excelled in the art of pottery making and as agriculturists. Their decorated potterya black design on pearly white backgroundwill compare favorably with pottery of the other cultures of the prehistoric Southwest. . . . Their decoration of cotton fabrics and ceramic work might be called beautiful, even when judged by our own standards. They fashioned axes, spear points, and rude tools of stone; they wove sandals, and made attractive basketry."
The museum at Mesa Verde is one of the most entertaining in the United States. Artifacts in it, from the ruins, permit the daily lives of the cliff dwellers to be reconstructed.
Spruce Tree House, not far from the museum, is easy of access. Dr. J. Walter Fewkes, formerly chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology, was in charge of the excavation of most of the "houses" in the park. He found Spruce Tree House to be 216 feet long by 89 at its greatest width. He counted "eight ceremonial rooms, or kivas, and 114 rooms that had been used for living, storage and other purposes." Around the corner of the cliff there was a spring which furnished water. At one end of the cave, a trail of small toeholds in the face of the cliff was used by the men as they climbed to the mesa above, where corn, beans, and squash were raised. It is thought that the hunters also used the trail as they went in search of deer and mountain sheep.
MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK
Cliff Palace is larger, being 300 feet long, located in a spacious cave with a high arch just under the rim of the mesa floor and 200 feet above the canyon below. In Cliff Palace there are more than 200 living rooms, with twenty-two kivas in the cave.
The architecture of the cliff dwellers took advantage of the hanging caves prepared for them by wind and water erosion. On the firm rock base of the floor of the cave the women of the tribe built the walls of stone, crudely at first, but in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries with considerable masonry skill, introducing towers, three and four stories, constructing the floors and ceiling with strong tough timbers and crossing them with fine small timbers.
But all of the ruins are not found in the cliffs. There is Sun Temple, with its 1,000 feet of four-foot-thick walls and its complicated floor plan. There is Far View House, built on the level mesa, with its kiva thirty-two feet in diameter.
The park buildings were all built in the so-called Santa Fe type, under the direction of Jesse L. Nusbaum, who has done so much to interpret the Mesa Verde dwellings to the public.
SOUTHWESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
A map of Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Utah and Colorado, dotted with the archeological parks and monuments and other remarkable features, would defy any simple routing. Frank Pinkley, Superintendent of the Southwestern Monuments lying in these four States, has figured out that a single trip to each, returning between trips to base at Coolidge, Arizona, would reach a mileage equal to a tour around the world on the circumference of the equatorand some of it would be equally hot! The Southwestern Monuments Association has recently (1939) issued "The Guide to Southwestern National Monuments," which locates and describes the twenty-six National Monuments administered from the Coolidge headquarters office. Unless one made a business of it, it would be impossible to visit all of these monuments on one trip. But it is possible to visit many of them on east-west trips. Three of these are in southern Utah. There are the forty-odd Arches, sculptured by wind erosion of red sandstone into unbelievably hospitable gateways; the tremendous Natural Bridge spans of solid sandstone, contrived on graceful supporting arches; and Rainbow Bridge of salmon-pink sandstone with a high arch "so nearly perfect" that "it dwarfs all human architecture" and so large that it could be arched over the Dome of the Capitol at Washington, with room to spare.
Across the Colorado-Utah line lies the Hovenweep National Monument, where are found "groups of remarkable prehistoric towers, pueblos, and cliff dwellings," built with a masonry so peculiar and specialized that, after centuries of exposure to the elements, parts of the ruins are in an excellent state of preservation. Not far from Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado, the mounds of Yucca House cover ruins of buildings which once rose fifteen to twenty feet above the foundations and which were occupied in the "Classic Period." Southeast from Yucca House, across the New Mexico line, are the Aztec ruins, where there is a great E-shaped pueblo with 500 rooms and other pueblos yet uncovered.
Traveling east to west in northern New Mexico, not far from Raton, one arrives at Capulin Mountain National Monumenta "magnificent cinder cone" overlooking a region "which bears manifestations of tremendous volcanic activity."
On the road from Taos, a pueblo village occupied continuously for more than a thousand years, to Santa Fe, one may make a short detour to Bandelier National Monument, comprising Frijoles, Alamo, and other canyons. "The National Park Service highway and developments open up only about 300 acres in Frijoles Canyon on the edge of the area in order to make accessible famous 200-room Tyuonyi and other representative ruins. Hardy hikers or riders who seek the primeval can wander through some 25,000 acres of untouched wilderness and canyon country, seeing isolated Yapashi and other ruins." Most of Bandelier's ruins are of the Regressive Pueblo period, after the abandonment of the great pueblos and cliff dwellings of northwestern New Mexico.
West of Bandelier is Chaco Canyon National Monument, with "eighteen major and literally thousands of minor ruins." Pueblo Bonito "is one of the most imposing and best known ruins in the Southwest. Built more than one thousand years ago, this five story, 800-room village was constructed in the shape of a great capital 'D' at the base of a cliff." Through tree-ring dating, archeologists have come to believe that the Chacoan towns were in ruins shortly after 1200 A. D., probably deserted because of droughts, possibly brought on by soil erosion and deforestation.
Still farther west, across the line in Arizona, is Canyon de Chelly, but these ruins are not for the motorist who desires to keep on hard-surfaced roads and see his sights from a car window. "Within the boundaries of the monument lie more than a hundred miles of canyons of de Chelly and its two tributaries. . . . In shallow open-faced caves are found habitations ranging in time from a Basket Maker storage cist, whose roof beams dated 348 A. D. (the earliest accurately dated timber in the Southwest), to cliff dwellings abandoned in the thirteenth century."
Northwest of Canyon de Chelly, and inaccessible except in favorable weather, are the three "wonderful cliff dwellings" in "indescribably colorful and wild surroundings"Keet Seel, Betatakin, and Inscription House. On the way south one may stop at Wupatki National Monument, where there are red sandstone prehistoric pueblos, "backgrounded by black basaltic cliffs and facing a view of the Painted Desert." Here 7,000 habitation sites have been discovered. Farther south is Sunset Crater, "most recent cone among the 400 others of the San Francisco volcanic field." South of the main highway is Walnut Canyon, twenty miles long and some 400 feet deep, occupied by some 300 cliff dwellings, proved by tree ringing to date from about 900 to 1200 A. D.
Not included under the administration of this group of monuments, but one, nevertheless, which every motorist should see, is the Petrified Forest between Gallup, New Mexico, and Holbrook, Arizona. Here lies a whole forest of petrified fallen giants.
Traveling south from Walnut Canyon one may visit Montezuma Castle, the best-preserved cliff dwelling in the United States. Built high in the cave of the cliff, the building is five stories high and contains 20 rooms within the walls proper. "Montezuma Castle probably was built during Pueblo III times (the period of great Pueblo advancement), and was occupied into the Regressive Period (Pueblo IV) after the great northern Pueblo centers were abandoned. It may have been constructed in part as early as 1100 A. D. and probably was deserted by 1425 A. D."
South of this is Tonto National Monument, where the cliff dwelling is situated on a cliff recess more than 300 feet above the headquarters area. Still farther south, at Coolidge, are the Casa Grande towers in "the largest of the six villages, to form by far the best preserved and most imposing ruin in the southern or Desert Province of the Southwest" named by Padre Kino in 1694. "Built of hard caliche clay with walls four feet thick at the base, Casa Grande was a watchtower-apartment house, for from its relatively great height its dwellers could watch for enemies."
Southeast of Casa Grande, almost down to the Mexican line, are the ruins of Tumacacori, one of Padre Kino's Sonora-Arizona chain of churches which, with San Xavier, were probably planned by two Italian brothers by the name of Gaona, architects.
In southern Arizona are two national monuments to preserve the native florathe Saguaro, near Tucson, and the Organ Pipe Cactus on the Mexican border. In the southeastern corner of Arizona, near the New Mexico line, is the Chiricahua National Monument, where "weirdly eroded volcanic formations form a Wonderland of Rocks high atop the beautifully forested Chiricahua Mountains."
Traveling eastward into New Mexico one finds the White Sands National Monument, where "glistening white gypsum and sand dunes, ten to sixty feet high, cover 500 square miles of the Tularoa Basin." North, near the center of New Mexico, in the Gran Quivira, we find the "new" church of the Spanish padres, begun in 1649, never completely finished, but still lifting its massive walls forty feet in the air. Northwest of this is El Morro, "a great buff promontory, rising 200 feet above the surrounding lava-strewn valley," resembling a huge castle or fortress. The Spaniards named it and left inscriptions on it, the earliest dated 1605 (or 1606), and the latest 1774. But the Spaniards were not the first to find the rock, with its cove and pool of water, "for high on the easily fortified mesa top are large ruins of pueblos which were built during Pueblo IV, the Regressive Pueblo Period, in the neighborhood of 1400 A.D. These peoples engraved undecipherable symbols on the rock, so El Morro's records cover more than 500 years."
In the wilderness of the Mogollon Mountains of western New Mexico are the Gila cliff dwellings, more interesting for their surroundings than for any special distinction.
These Southwestern Monuments preserve some of the most important geological, archeological, and historical evidences of the past forces and civilizations of the region. No traveler can claim to have seen the Southwest who has not visited some of them.
Last Updated: 18-Nov-2009