A new National Park Service site joins the ranks today. Chimney Rock Archaeological Area in Southwestern Colorado will officially have its status upgraded to National Monument by President Obama under the 1906 Antiquities Act. The area was previously added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and is also part of the San Juan National Forest. It is known primarily for being an important prehistoric settlement of ancient Pueblo Indians and is named after the twin rock spires that rise 315 feet above the surrounding mesa.
The remains of 200 homes and ceremonial Pueblo buildings built atop the mesa have been extensively studied since their excavation in the 1920s. It was a sacred site for the native people of the region because they observed that for 30 months every 18.6 years, the moon rises between the two rock spires (known as the lunar standstill). People from the surrounding area made pilgrimages to observe this phenomenon. Today, daily walking tours are offered during the summer season to visit the ruins of the ancient walls and observe the 75 mile panoramic views.
Adding the monument designation will help permanently protect the important cultural area and could potentially double the number of visitors to Chimney Rock in the next few years. This news worries some, as they feel it could disturb the peaceful nature of the site, but it also will expose the educational opportunities to a greater audience and increase tourism in the local region.
Check out this great article about the upgrade from the Durango Herald: Chimney Rock Headed For Big Time.