Yucca House National Monument

Yucca House National Monument

Yucca House National Monument
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Unexcavated mound at Yucca House National Monument
Map showing the location of Yucca House National Monument
Map showing the location of Yucca House National Monument
Location Montezuma County, Colorado, USA
Nearest city Cortez, Colorado
Area 33.87 acres (13.71 ha)[1]
Created December 19, 1919 (1919-December-19)
Governing body National Park Service

Yucca House National Monument is a United States National Monument located in Montezuma County, Colorado between the towns of Towaoc (headquarters of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe) and Cortez, Colorado. Yucca House is a large, unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site.


Yucca House National Monument is located in the Montezuma Valley at the foot of Sleeping Ute Mountain, called "mountain with lots of yucca growing on it" by the Ute people, and inspiration for the name of the national monument.[2]


The site is one of many Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) village sites located in the Montezuma Valley occupied between AD 1100 and 1300 by 13,000 people.[3][4]

Two unexcavated settlement areas covered in vegetation include:[2][5]

  • Western Complex was a large pueblo of up to 600 rooms, 100 kivas and a giant, perhaps community, kiva. A spring runs through the complex. A large building about 80 × 100 feet, Upper House, was made of adobe. The ruins are about 12 to 15 feet high, but may have been twice that height.
  • Lower House is an L-shaped pueblo 200 feet by 180 inches with a plaza, 8 small rooms 7 × 2 feet and a large kiva

Nearby were the ancient pueblo village of Mud Springs at the head of McElmo Canyon[4] and Navajo Springs, was the original site of the Ute Mountain Indian Agency south of Sleeping Ute Mountain in the early 1900s.[6]

Like other nearby Ancient Pueblo peoples, the Yucca House pueblo dwellers abandoned their homes, but because a major excavation has not been completed it is not known when, or if there is a relationship between these people and those of nearby pueblo settlements.[2]

Archaeological study and excavation

The following archaeological studies were conducted:[2][5]

Holmes reports: "These ruins form the most imposing pile of masonry yet found in Colorado. The whole group covers an area of about 480,00 square feet, and has an average depth of from 3 to 4 feet. [...] The stone used is chiefly of the fossiliferous limestone that outcrops along the base of the Mesa Verde a mile or so away."
  • In 1918 J. Walter Fewkes studied and remapped the ruins
  • An excavation was completed by the Museum of Natural History in New York in the late 1910s led by Earl Morris and, in the 5th year of excavation led by Dr. Clark Wissler. Wissler found that the interior walls of the "remarkable shrine room" were painted white with a red border and the floor covered with expertly cut slabs of stone, similar to one of the rooms at the Mesa Verde National Park. A sacred 2½ foot serpent was carved into wood at the ceiling.
  • In two separate projects in 1964, Al Lancaster studied the area and stabilized the masonry wall of Lower House in 1964 and Al Schroeder found that some of "Upper House" was constructed of adobe, quite rare for sites built in the 13th century
  • Studies were conducted in the late 1990s following the donation of additional acreage which expanded the number of sites. The study included analysis of pottery on the new site and remapping the site with modern technology.

National monument

Entrance to Yucca House National Monument
President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the site a National Monument on December 19, 1919, after the donation of 9.5 acres (38,000 m2) of land on July 2, 1919 by a private landowner. An additional 24 acres was donated by Hallie Ismay in the late 1990s. It was one of many research national monuments designated during that era to preserve the ruins, plants and animals in the Yucca House area.[3] Hallie Ismay, benefactor of the additional land in the 1990s, was an unofficial steward of the Yucca House site for 62 years.[2]

As a National Park Service historic area, the park was administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. The site is managed by Mesa Verde National Park.

Currently, there are no true interpretive features, facilities or fees at Yucca House. See the Visitor Guide for directions to the remote location. Parking space is limited and roads may be difficult immediately following rains or snowmelt. [2]

See also

Mesa Verde - administrator of Yucca House National Monument

Other neighboring Ancient Pueblo sites in Colorado

Other cultures in the Four Corners region

Early American cultures


  1. ^ "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-14. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f .Visitor Guide National Park Service. Retrieved 9-22-2011.
  3. ^ a b History & Culture. National Park Service. Retrieved 9-22-2011.
  4. ^ a b Rohn, Arthur H.; Ferguson, William M. (2006). Puebloan ruins of the Southwest. University of New Mexico Press. Page 135. ISBN 0-8263-3969-7.
  5. ^ a b Art and archaeology, Volumes 9-10. Archaeological Institute of America, Archaeological Society of Washington, College Art Association of America, 1920. Page 42.
  6. ^ Dutton, Bertha Pauline. (1983) [1975]. American Indians of the Southwest. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 0-8263-0704-3.

External links

  • Yucca House National Monument (National Park Service)