Wupatki National Monument

Written by on October 19, 2015 in AZ History & Heritage - Comments Off on Wupatki National Monument

Around 800 years ago, Wupatki Pueblo at Wupatki National Monument served as a meeting place for different cultures from the surrounding area. Located just north of Flagstaff, Arizona, Wupatki Pueblo was one of the largest, tallest and perhaps the wealthiest of its day. Today, the partially restored pueblo still stands, with its warm red stone contrasting sharply against shocking blue skies. The summit of Mt. Humphrey’s, one of the four mountains sacred to the Navajo people, keeps serene watch over this ancient historic site.

Wupatki National Monument is a fun and educational place to visit if you happen to be traveling to Arizona. You can walk in the footsteps of these ancient people and explore the huge 100-room pueblo complex along a self-guided trail. Between 85-100 people lived in the “apartment complex” with several thousand more people living less than a day’s walk away. It probably served as a center for trade and perhaps religious life in the area. However, according to archeologist, it was built in one of the least hospitable areas of the state — one of the lowest, warmest and driest places on the Colorado Plateau. Why would these ancient people select such a site?

One of the neatest places is the Wokoki Ruins, just down the road from the main Wupatki complex. This smaller pueblo perches on a giant boulder in the middle of a large wash. It has a commanding view of the surrounding area and is one of the coolest places to just stand and stare.

Nearby Sunset Crater erupted about 100 years before Wupatki Pueblo was built and many people who lived close to the crater lost their homes. Eventually, they all gravitated to the Wupatki area because they discovered the ash and cinders from the volcano would retain water from melt and rainfall, thus allowing them to grow crops. For nearly 150 years, this pueblo remained a flourishing center of life. Then in 1250 A.D., the pueblo people mysteriously moved on again — perhaps due to drought, over-use of the land, internal strife or outside threat — though no one knows for sure.

Though Wupatki appears empty and abandoned today, many of the Native American tribes tell tales of the pueblo and revere its now hallowed walls. The Hopi, in particular, believe that the former inhabitants remain as spiritual guardians of the place. Members of many Hopi clans return here periodically to understand their clan history.

There are some unique, and little known aspects to Wupatki National Monument. Near the pueblo (you’ll have to discover it for yourself) is a place that locals refer to as the blowhole. It is a hole in the ground and leads into underground fissures. At certain times, the blowhole spews forth cool air, and at other times, sucks air in. The phenomenon is sporadic, but particularly startling during blazing summer days when you can be bathed in 55-degree air from the blowhole.

Another unique aspect of Wupatki National Monument are the tiny denizens that call the park home. Three species of fairy shrimp, a tadpole shrimp species, and a clam shrimp species are found in the pools and ancient catch basins at Wupatki National Monument.

Though no longer occupied, Wupatki is remembered and cared for, not abandoned. Please show the respect you would when visiting a friend’s home — stay off the walls, don’t pick up anything, remain on the established trails — as this site is sacred to many Native American peoples.

The nearest amenities, lodging, dining and shopping are in Flagstaff, Arizona, which offers almost everything a traveler could want. Wupatki National Monument is also within easy driving distance of Sunset Crater, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, Montezuma’s Castle and Montezuma’s Well.

Wupatki National Monument
6400 N. Hwy 89
Flagstaff, AZ 86004
Phone: (928) 526-1157

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