American Indian Presence on the Colorado Landscape

Travel Southwestern Colorado, rich in Native American Culture and History. Home of Mesa Verde National Park, Chimney Rock Archaeological Area, Ute Indian Museum, and two unique cultural festivals, Ute Council Tree Pow Wow and the Mesa Verde Country® Indian Arts and Culture Festival.

Total Number of Days/Nights: 6


Destinations include:
Mesa Verde National Park  
Historic San Juan Mountains 
Ute Indian Museum  
Anasazi Heritage Center Pagosa Hot Springs  
Ft. Uncompahgre  
Chipeta and Chief Ouray  
Chimney Rock Archaeological Area 

Day One: Cortez. Visit the Anasazi Heritage Center, an archaeological museum and the headquarters for the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (north of Cortez.)  The Heritage Center includes archaeological exhibits, hands-on activities, cultural videos, and two small archaeological sites. Attend free Indian Dances and Cultural Programs at the Cortez Cultural Center in the evening (during the summer months.) 

Day Two: Mesa Verde National Park. Just east of Cortez, visit the spectacular cliff dwellings and mesa-top villages in world-renowned Mesa Verde National Park, a World Heritage Site. Ranger-guided, self-guided, and ½ day guided tours are available in the park.

Day Three:  Chimney Rock, Pagosa Springs. From mid-May to the end of September, take a trip back in time at Chimney Rock Archaeological Area. This site, once home to the ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians, is of great spiritual significance today.  Travel on to Pagosa Springs, whose name “Pagosah” is a Ute Indian word meaning healing waters. Give them a try and learn the lore of the fight for ownership of the hot springs between the Ute and Navajo Indians.

Day Four: Ouray. Drive from Pagosa Springs to Ouray, joining the San Juan Skyway in Durango, and follow it through Silverton into Ouray.  As you travel along this All American Road, often called “The Most Beautiful Drive in America,” reflect on this area from the perspective of the Ute Indians, who utilized these mountains as a summer camp for their family groups for many centuries.  In Ouray, their hot springs also had special significance for the Uncompahgre Band of Utes.  They called the hot springs “sacred miracle waters,” and used them for both ceremonial and healing purposes, even bathing their beloved horses in the steaming waters.

Day Five: Montrose. Visit the Ute Indian Museum, one of the few museums Ute Museum, Montrosein the country devoted solely to one tribe.  The life and culture of the Ute People, the indigenous inhabitants of western Colorado, are commemorated in this museum. The grounds include the Ouray Memorial and the grave of Chipeta, wife of Chief Ouray. Travel on to explore Black Canyon National Park.  This steep, dark canyon has been a barrier to humans from time immemorial.  Not even Ute Indians occupied the deep gorge.  Only the rim shows any signs of habitation.

Day Six: Delta. Discover the Ute Council Tree. This historic cottonwood tree Fancy Dancer Council Tree Pow Wowwas designated a Colorado Landmark and is marked by a plaque from the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The tree was dedicated in memory of Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta, of the Ute Indian tribe. There, he and his braves met with white settlers to smoke the pipe of peace and settle their differences. Venture into the frontier at Fort Uncompahgre in Delta on a site where Ute Indians and trappers once traded.