Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum

Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum

Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum is currently open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To create a safe space for visitors and staff while in the building the following guidelines are in place: 

-Stay at least 6 feet from others.

-Clean your hands regularly.

-Reschedule your visit if you feel unwell.

-Wear a face covering while indoors.*

     *If you are fully vaccinated (at least 2 weeks past your final dose), you are no longer required to wear a mask.

Please call 970-882-5600 for customer services that may be available by phone or email on days the Visitor Center is not open. A "Virtual Ranger Station" will be stocked with maps, brochures, and junior ranger booklets and can be found next to the Visitor Center's parking lot 24/7.

Commercial Tour Group Operators: Please call (970) 882-5612 to schedule your visit one month in advance. Museum admission is $7 per person. Tours visiting the monument are required to obtain a special recreation permit. Information on how to apply for a special recreation permit is provided below.

Special Recreation Permits: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Tres Rios Field Office will accept commercial Special Recreation Permit Applications and modification requests for the following year during the month of September (September 1-30). This includes existing permittees requesting permit modifications such as requesting additional use areas or proposing changes to the pre-existing purposes and/or activities authorized. Please review the CANM/TRFO Special Recreation Permit Policy for additional information.


Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum is Southwest Colorado's premier archaeological museum, operated by the Bureau of Land Management since 1988.  All museum facilities are wheelchair-accessible.

Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum is a museum focusing on Ancestral Puebloan, Native American, and historic cultures in the Four Corners region.  It is also headquarters for visitors traveling to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Features include:

  • Permanent exhibits on archaeology, local history and Native American cultures
  • Two 12th-century archaeological sites (Ask a volunteer about the visiting these sites just outside of the museum.)
  • Special exhibits and events
  • Educational resources for teachers
  • Internships for enrolled and recently graduated college students
  • Research library of archaeology and anthropology resources
  • Research collection of more than 3 million artifacts and records from archaeological projects in Southwest Colorado
  • Picnic area and half-mile nature trail

About the Museum

The Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum displays the culture and history of the Ancestral Puebloan people, and the methods that modern archaeologists use to reveal the past. The museum preserves artifacts and records from excavations in the Four Corners area, one of the richest archaeological regions in the United States, and is also the headquarters for Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Our goal is to increase public awareness of archaeology and cultural resources in the Four Corners.

The museum is 7,000 feet (2,150 m) above sea level at the foot of the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado, and about 17 miles by road from Mesa Verde National Park. The grounds overlook McPhee Reservoir and the Montezuma Valley.   

Tours

Interpretive Program Schedule

Call the Visitor Center for current offerings (970) 882-5600.

 

Explore Inside

LEARN about Four Corners archaeology and prehistory through interactive computer-based permanent exhibits.  

TOUCH real artifacts- bone drills, stone points, pottery, etc.- excavated from Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) sites  

DISCOVER the age of a wood sample by matching it to a tree-ring chart like archaeologists use.  

SEE how an early Pueblo household was furnished in a replica pithouse.  

FIND a cross-section of the replica pithouse in an archaeologist's test trench.  

RECALL the last century of history in the Dolores River Valley in our River of Sorrows hallway exhibit.  

VISIT the current Special Exhibit in the Special Exhibits Gallery.  

WATCH our movies The Cultural Heritage of the Great Sage Plain (19 min) and Visit With Respect (9 min) to see Four Corners history through the eyes of both archaeologists and Native Americans.  

 

Explore Outside

ENJOY our picnic area with six tables at the beginning of the trail to Escalante Pueblo.

TRAVEL the Escalante Trail, a half-mile-long, paved, uphill, wheelchair-accessible trail with an excellent 360° view of area. Signs along the trail illuminate history and the local environment.  

DISCOVER the Escalante Pueblo, a compact village of the mid-1100s. Its style reflects the Chaco culture that was centered in northwestern New Mexico. 

LEARN about Dominguez Pueblo, right in front of the museum. This four-room structure probably was home to one or two families.
 

Special Exhibit

The BLM Canyons of the Ancients Museum and Visitor Center is proud to announce our new exhibit, “Home on the Range; Managing Wild Horses on Colorado Public Lands” opening to visitors in 2021.  The exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the “Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act” of 1971 through captivating photographs and in-depth information about the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program.  The exhibit features information about Colorado’s four BLM Herd Management Areas and stunning photographs by TJ Holmes.  Visitors will learn about BLM’s work to manage wild horses, unique traits of different herds, and how the public can get involved in stewardship and adoption.  The BLM will announce public programs in 2021 to engage visitors and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Act

 

Educational Resources

Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum offers a variety of education resources and opportunities for learners of all ages. Our experienced and enthusiastic educators offer students hands-on lessons and activities to increase their knowledge of the past while inspiring further learning. Every year we work with over 2,000 students from all over the country, as well as providing in-school programs for local schools. 

 For information about educational tours, resources, and fee waivers contact Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum by emailing loanboxes@gmail.com or calling 970-882-5612.

Kids who visit can participate in our Junior Explorer Program or our Agents of Discovery Missions!

Student internships are periodically available in Curation, Exhibits, and Visitor Services.

 

Dolores Archaeological Program

In 1977, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) contracted with the University of Colorado to perform archaeological and historical fieldwork and analysis in the McPhee reservoir area. 

During six field seasons (1978-1983), Dolores Archaeological Program (DAP) archaeologists surveyed and recorded 1,626 archaeological sites on 16,000+ acres in the project area. They fully excavated 125 sites, and collected more than 1.5 million artifacts--including historic glass bottles, a prehistoric bone tool kit, and thousands of ceramic vessels and fragments (sherds). DAP maps, photos and records provide a vast knowledge base that otherwise would have disappeared forever. Nearly 100 Dolores Archaeological Program Technical Reports are currently available for download in searchable PDF format.

As a part of the overall project, the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum was constructed to preserve both artifacts and records in perpetuity. The Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum is an official federal repository for archaeological materials, which continue to arrive from permitted, legitimate excavations on public land in southwest Colorado. 

Many Dolores Archaeological Program artifacts are on display at the Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum. The rest represent an invaluable resource for archaeologists, historians, graduate students, and other scholars and researchers. Anyone with a legitimate research interest may access the collection by prior arrangement with the curation department. Supervisory Curator Bridget Ambler can be reached by phone at (970) 882-5622, or by email at bambler@blm.gov.

Collections

Even though the Dolores Archaeological Program material was excavated decades ago (the dam was completed in 1985), we are still learning from these artifacts today. New research technologies emerge and new questions arise, so these collections continue to provide new information and a deeper understanding of past lifeways.

Some people think that artifacts have no value beyond the aesthetic, but archaeology is how we discover the past when written records are unavailable. Most of the long story of the human race can only be reconstructed through archaeological methods. In our time of profound social and environmental change, archaeology is more important than ever. Studying how ancient people impacted their landscape can inform our own modern decisions regarding the public lands our children will inherit. 

Quick Facts

Current Hours:
9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Thur. - Sat

Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day

Museum Admission: (Monument access if always free)
$7 adults 
Under 16 free
Visitor Center services free (information, wayfinding, etc)
We honor Federal Lands Recreation Passes. 
 

Plan Your Visit

 

Partners

Contact

Visitor Center and Museum
27501 Highway 184, Dolores, CO 81323
PHONE: (970) 882-5600
FAX: (970) 882-7035