Wukoki Pueblo

Wukoki, a 900 year old sandstone structure, with snow on the ground.
Wukoki Tower

Location 2.5 mile drive from the visitor center down Wukoki Pueblo Rd.
Distance 0.2 mile (.3 km) round-trip
Time average 15 minutes
Difficulty Easy to Moderate
Accessibility Accessible up to the base of the pueblo.
Highlights

  • An over 900 year old ancestral Puebloan site with a three story tower
  • rooms you can enter

  • Scenic views of the San Francisco Peaks and surrounding landscape


Cultural and Historical Importance
A partial excavation done by archeologist Jesse Walter Fewkes in 1896 revealed not only superb architecture but also the work of skilled artisans. He recovered beautifully designed pottery, a bracelet of shells, and ear pendants of stone with turquoise mosaic inlay. These artifacts have provided clues to who lived here and when.

The original grandeur of Wukoki is still evident. There were three stories in what seems to be a tower. A total of six of seven rooms may have been home to two or three families. The open area adjacent to the tower was a plaza used for daily activities, pottery making, basket weaving, and other chores. The plaza was enclosed by a semicircular parapet wall.

The encompassing view may have been the motive for building on the sandstone outcrop. We don't know exactly why they chose to build where they did, but the height and location of Wukoki are extraordinary.

The 'real' Wukoki
In 1891 and 1893, Fewkes visited Walpi pueblo on the present-day Hopi reservation. On one of his visits he heard the origin of the Snake Clan. According to legend, the clan migrated from Tokonave near Navajo Mountain to the great house Wukoki before moving on to Walpi. Wukoki was said to have been located 50 miles west of Walpi by the Little Colorado River, but its exact location was uncertain.

Fewkes did locate dwellings, within what is now Wupatki National Monument, that he believed to be the Wukoki of the Snake Clan legend. Initially he refereed to the entire area as Wukoki. As he grew more familiar with the individual pueblos, Fewkes specifically applied the name Wukoki to the largest pueblo. Wukoki means "big house" in Hopi.

Over time, the pueblo Fewkes called Wukoki became widely known as Wupatki instead. This also became the name of the national monuments in 1924. The name Wukoki was assigned to the nearby pueblo we know by that name today.

Although it is no longer physically occupied, Hopi believe the people who lived and died here remain as spiritual guardians. Wukoki is remembered and cared for, not abandoned.

 
A historic image of Wukoki Pueblo before any stabilization work was done in the early 1900s. The top of the structure is missing some of the stones.
Wukoki Pueblo in the early 1900s
Preservation
Wukoki is one of the best preserved prehistoric structures within Wupatki national monument, but it has not been reconstructed. The National Park Service partially reinforced the pueblo in 1941 by installing wood braces, props, and wedges. Cement and mud mortars were used to further stabilize the walls. Later a stabilization survey was conducted and the wall again remortared with mud. Test trenches were dug in two of the rooms. This is the only modern excavation of the site.

By 1954 more extensive stabilization was required. Workers used Portland Cement covered with clay mortar made from local soils. They braced the walls internally, using half-inch reinforcing steel, flat steel bars and concrete. Hodden within the masonry, these reinforcements help ensure the stability of this important structure.

Current preservation involves annual stabilization of walls, condition monitoring of both the pueblo structure and the surrounding hillsides, invasive plant removal, and trail maintenance.

Thank you for helping us protect this important heritage site by not climbing on walls, leaving all natural and cultural items in their place, and staying on designated trails.

Last updated: August 28, 2020

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

6400 U.S. 89
Flagstaff, AZ 86004

Phone:

9286792365 or 9288561705

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