Photo Adventure : Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

When I was in Europe, it was amazing to me how much history was in every turn.  Churches were centuries old and some homes had been used for generations upon generations.  That is a very different experience than I have in America.  We’re a young country, and our history is young history.  Of course, our nation’s history doesn’t begin with the Europeans.  The Native Americans were here first, and have rich traditions as old as the ones I observed in Europe.  However, a lot of their buildings were created to be temporary and easily moved to fit tribes’ lifestyles.

The exceptions are the cliff dwellers and pueblo builders of the Southwest.  We were able to see homes built by both, but by far my favorite stop was Wupatki National Monument.  Located somewhat near Flagstaff, it is a great stop between Sedona and the Grand Canyon.  It is really two National Park Service sites in one because it is right next door to Sunset Crater Volcano – which is historically significant.

Wupatki means “Tall House” in Hopi, and it really was.  The Sinagua pueblo was multi-story and had more than 100 rooms and was first inhabited around 500 AD.  After Sunset Crater erupted sometime between 1040 and 1100, the rich soil probably improved the growing potential of the desert soil, and an influx of people brought the number of inhabitants to about 100.  But by 1225, the site was completely abandoned – probably the result of another eruption of Sunset Crater.

Today, Wupatki National Monument takes care of several pueblos in the area of varying size and state of ruin.  It is amazing to me that these people with no visible water source were able to make a home in such an inhospitable environment.  It is a site I highly recommend for all travelers – including families with children.  While my kids haven’t started an in-depth study of Native American history, it was very beneficial for them to see a home very different from their own.

The largest pueblo site is the Wupatki ruins. They are located next to the visitor’s center.
The Wupatki pueblo also contains a ball court.
The construction was pretty impressive. Hard to imagine the ruins are so very old.
A lot of the surrounding sand is black and is volcanic in origin. Sunset Crater Volcano NM is right next door.
Looking beside the pueblo, it is easy to see where the construction materials came from.
wupatki national monument arizona
Overlooking the entire Wupatki pueblo site. It is more expansive than you expect.
wupatki national monument arizona
The other significant ruin is the Wukoki pueblo, a short drive from the main site.
wupatki national monument arizona
You can actually climb on the Wukoki Pueblo. I imagine the view hasn’t changed much over time.
wupatki national monument arizona
The pueblo looks tremendous in the golden light of near-sunset.
Wukoki Pueblo - Wupatki National Monument
We drove by the Wukoki pueblo a second time during our trip, this time with a storm approaching.
Wukoki Pueblo - Wupatki National Monument
Such a gorgeous historical site in the Arizona desert!