Corbitt's National Parks
     Yucca House
                National Monument


1919: National Monument

Size: 34 acres

2007 visitors: (unreported - but at least 7)

Stamp: Yes (at Mesa Verde)

Rating (1-5):

About the Site

Yucca House is an open, yet unexcavated, National Monument. We know limited details about the site, but the two large mounds of rubble and the outline of the Great Kiva indicate that this was a major center of the Ancestral Puebloan people. It is thought that Yucca House's time of greatest importance was from about 11500 A.D. to 1300 A.D., when the inhabitants left to other parts of the region. The West Complex might hold as many as 600 rooms and 100 kivas, along with a Great Kiva. The Lower Complex is an L-shaped pueblo that boasts the only remaining masonry walls, and a structure that might have consisted of eight rooms. There is a plaza, surrounded by a low wall, that highlights the Great Kiva. This kiva might have served the entire community.

The Utes and Navajos living nearby have known about this site for centuries, and the Puebloan people who now live further south have a rich oral tradition tying their people to Yucca House. It may have been abandoned by its inhabitants over 700 years ago, but it was not forgotten. Professor William H. Holmes was the first Anglo to write about it, and he described a prolific stream surrounced on three sides by rubble. At that time it was thought that these many sites had been built by the Aztecs of Mexico, so he named it Aztec Springs. Later archaeologists realized the Aztecs never came this far north, and to avoid confusion with the nearby town of Aztec and the Aztez Ruins of that area, they renamed it in honor of adjacent Sleeping Ute Mountain. That mountain is known to the Utes and other tribes as "the mountain with yucca growing on it". So, despite the fact there is no yucca currently growing at Yucca House, it became ... Yucca House.

What You're Going to See

What you're going to see at here are two major mounds of rubble among the semi-arid vegetation. There are a couple of short walls of rock that are visible, but for the most tpart things have been left alone since they were discovered by ranchers in the late 1800's. This site has not been excavated and stabilized like other archaelogical sites in the National Park system, so you'll really need to use your imagination. There is no visitor center, no parking lot, no brochures, no stamp (all of which are available at Mesa Verde). So enjoy the farmland that surrounds the site, enjoy the laid-back ambiance, be respectful of others' property, and have a good time.

Personal Observations

We were tired. It had been a long trip, this drive through New Mexico. A good trip to be sure, but we are generally homebodies and six days on the road, in strange beds, with lots of time in our beloved Suburban, all told us it was time to go home. So after we ambled through Mesa Verde, after I dragged my family down the trail to Spruce Tree House, after we drove around so I could see innumerable pithouses, after we ate lunch on the side of the road, everyone was ready to be done. Everyone, that is, except me.

"Hey, babe," I said casually to my wife as we were driving the wandering trail out, "I'd like to stop at the visitor center one more time." She turned and gave me a look, and I hurriedly went on. "Just to see, you know, if they have a stamp." She replied, quite calmly I have to admit, "You already have a stamp." "A stamp for Yucca House" I said congenially. Perhaps her fingers tightened on the steering wheel, perhaps I imagined it, but she said "And if they do?" I smiled, and didn't say a word. She sighed. "How far away is it?" "Only about fifteen miles. And we can loop around to get back to the hotel room!" She sighed and gave in to the inevitable. "All right, if there's a stamp, we'll go to --" "YES!" I cried.

We parked, the kids settled in deeper to their books and iPods and GameBoys, and I ran back through the tunnel to the visitors center. I grabbed the first Ranger I saw, and asked if they had a stamp for Yucca House. He was a little older, clearly a man of some experience, but he hesitated. "Well, maybe in the drawer" he said doubtfully. But lo and behold, when he opened the drawer it was the second stamp he found. "I didn't know we even had this!" he smiled, and checked the date on the stamp. "2001? Seems like a long time since it's been used." He moved it to 2007, which happened to be the last year on the stamp, and handed it over to me. I was grinning as I walked back to the Suburban, and Gina later told me she knew immediately our trip wasn't over.

As it turned out, it was one of the better trips we made that vacation. It was cloudy and cooler by that time of the day, and we were driving through farmland, not the less pretty scrub that naturally grows. Since it seemed that not many people visited Yucca House, we felt like we were on an adventure. "Take County Road B, go 3/4 of a mile, turn right ... " Everyone enjoyed the directions and the scenery, although we did feel strange parking in someone's farm driveway as we walked over to the gate and the Yucca House sign. We didn't stay long; I didn't want to risk my family's generosity, but I took a bunch of pictures, and soon we piled back in to the Suburban. Gina was in charge of signing our name on the logbook, and I was surprised to learn we weren't even the first visitors that day. We were the second. But it was a lot of fun, and it reminded me of a good lesson: We don't have to go to a big and famous place (Mesa Verde) in order to have a good time; sometimes the lesser jewels of the world (Yucca House, Manzanar National Historic Site) provide more fun and even better memories.

Getting There

From the entrance of Mesa Verde, take Highway 160 West, through Cortez, to Highway 491 South. Drive south approximately 8 miles from the intersection of Highway 160 and Highway 491 and take a right on MC County Road B, which is a dirt road one mile south of MC Road C. Watch carefully; when we were there, the sign was half fallen over. Drive 0.8 miles, crossing a paved road, and take the next dirt road on the right, before the farmhouse on the left. Follow this road north and west for 1.4 miles, and head towards the white ranch house with the red roof on the west horizon. Please be courteous toward the private landowners and close all gates behind you as you enter to prevent livestock from escaping. Once at the ranch house, Yucca House National Monument is on the left side of the driveway.

Nearby Attractions

The edge of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is about 70 miles to the west. Natural Bridges National Monument is about 70 miles to the west northwest. Hovenweep National Monument is about 10 miles to the northwest. Canyonlands National Park is about 75 miles to the northwest. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is about 80 miles north northeast, and Curecanti National Recreation Area is just to its east. Mesa Verde National Park is about ten miles to the east. Aztec Ruins National Monument is about 45 miles to the southeast. Chaco Culture National Historic Park is about 85 miles to the south. Canyon de Chelly is about 90 miles to the south southeast. Navajo National Monument is about 95 miles west southwest.

Visited July, 2007.

Additional Photos