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Visiting Tusayan Ruins
Did you know there were ruins at the Grand Canyon? Before going there I didn’t! Actually there are literally tons of archaeological sites in and around the canyon. In fact the little map brochure I got said there are 4,000! Most of them aren’t accessible at all however, so it’s nice that the Tusayan Ruins are there for people to easily see up close.
Location & Hours
When we first arrived at the Grand Canyon, I opened up the map given to us at the ranger station to see what places we should check out during our stay. Just down Desert View Drive from the main visitor’s center at the South Rim was a spot marked as Tusayan Museum and Ruins. So we stopped to check it out.
The Tusayan Museum is open from 9am-5pm. *Always check the park website though for any updated hours.
The museum there was pretty small, and there’s much that even archaeologists just don’t know, but it did give a lot of insight into how the people, namely the Ancestral Puebloans, may have lived back then. How they made use of the land and the plants in this area was really interesting. Yucca plants were used for rope, sandals, and baskets, as the plant is very fibrous. They boiled pine needles for tea, which was a big source of Vitamin C, and they ate the juniper berries off the trees(I never knew those were edible!). They also set aside plots of land for gardening.
Outside of the museum it was just a short paved walk around the ruins which looked like low lying mud brick walls that were once buildings. There were plenty of signs that gave more information on the locations.
What’s a Kiva?
You’ll see a lot of signs for “Kiva’s” at ruins in the area, not just at the Grand Canyon. Kiva’s were round dwellings used for religious or ceremonial purposes, gatherings, or meetings.
In addition to the ruins, there’s also a lot of cool plants and wildlife in the area! Like these pretty purple and yellow flowers(unfortunately I don’t know their names), prickly pear and other types of cacti, and this Plateau Fence Lizard sunning himself on a rock. There’s so much life around the Grand Canyon!
View of the San Francisco Peaks
As we were leaving, we came across this gap in the trees, and there was a sign there explaining that these are the San Francisco Peaks in the distance….San Francisco? I thought we were in Arizona not California, right? Well, turns out that in 1629 many years before the city of San Francisco was even named, Spanish missionaries came and established a site near these mountains in the name of St. Francis Assisi. Thus people living around there named the peaks after him.
After you’ve visited the Museum and ruins, continue along Desert View Drive to see the Grand Canyon Watchtower!
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