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Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum

Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum

Winter 2021:
Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health authorities, the Tres Rios Field Office is temporarily restricting in-person access to Canyon of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum. Please call the office for customer services that may be available by phone, email or in-person at 970-882-5600. Visitors may still continue to enjoy the BLM trails and open space areas of the monument.

 


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.

The museum features:

  • 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
  • Museum shop operated by the non-profit Canyonlands Natural History Association

About the Museum

The Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum displays the culture and history of the Ancestral Pueblo 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.  

WEAVE on a Pueblo-style loom  

GRIND corn into meal using stone tools called a mano and a metate  

EXAMINE pottery, stone, bone and plant samples under microscopes to learn about microanalysis in archaeology  

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.  

RIVER OF SORROWS, our hallway exhibit, recalls the last century of history in the Dolores River Valley.  

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 our museum shop, operated by Canyonlands Natural History Association (CNHA). Besides posters, replicas, videos, and music, CNHA offers children's literature and books on specialized topics such as Native American philosophy, crafts, archaeology, Southwest history, cookbooks and nature guides.

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

Capturing the Canyons

 A photography exhibit featuring the work of local photographer Lanny Wagner. Mr. Wagner was selected as an Artist-in Residence for the Bureau of Land Management. His stunning work showcases the rich cultural landscape in the Monument, with images captured to highlight sites with diverse seasonal backdrops.

The exhibit is on display through January 2021.

 

Educational Resources

Our experienced and enthusiastic educators offer students of all ages hands-on lessons and activities to increase their knowledge of the past while inspiring further learning. Every year they work with about 2,000 students from all over the country, as well as providing in-school programs for local schools.

The Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum offers a variety of education resources and opportunities from Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance (SCCA).

For information about educational tours, resources, and fee waivers contact:

  • Amala Posey-Monk at 970-882-5621

Kids who visit can participate in our Junior Explorer program!

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

Contact Amala Posey-Monk at 970-882-5621 or aposeymonk@blm.gov to find out about volunteer opportunities at the museum or in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. 

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 museum's Curator.

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, though pretty to look at, 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.

Collections

Research access and curation permits information coming soon.

Quick Facts

HOURS: 

Mar. 1 - Oct. 31
9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Tue-Sun

Nov. 1 - Nov. 30
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Wed. - Sun.

Dec. 1 - Jan 5
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Thur. - Sun.

Jan. 6 - Feb. 28
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Wed. - Sun.

Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day

Museum Admission: (Monument access if always free)
$6 adults 
16 & under free
Visitor Center services free (information, wayfinding, etc)
We honor Federal Lands Recreation Passes. 
 

Plan Your Visit

 

Partners

Contact

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