Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center & Museum
PLEASE NOTE: Hours of operation for Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum will be intermittent through July 17, 2023 during major floor renovations. Dominguez Pueblo and a half-mile accessible trail leading to Escalante Pueblo and the McPhee Reservoir Overlook remain open. Call (970) 882-5600 for assistance.
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 accept commercial Special Recreation Permit applications and modification requests for the following year every September 1 through 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 BLM since 1988. All museum facilities are wheelchair-accessible.
Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum houses permanent and temporary exhibits focusing on Ancestral Puebloan, Native American, and historic cultures in the Four Corners region and serves as headquarters for visitors to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.
- Permanent exhibits on archaeology, local history and Native American cultures
- Two 12th-century archaeological sites (Dominguez and Escalante pueblos) just outside the building
- Picnic area and half-mile nature trail
- 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.
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.
Interpretive Program Schedule
Call the Visitor Center for current offerings (970) 882-5600.
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.
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.
The BLM Canyons of the Ancients Museum and Visitor Center is proud to announce our new exhibit, “Sand, Stone, and Songs: Ancient Lessons from a Living Landscape” opening to visitors in 2022. The exhibit features the architecture of sites within the Monument:
"The rugged landscape now known as Canyons of the Ancients National Monument has many names, attesting to its importance in the daily lives and ancestral histories of many diverse cultures. The Towa language speakers of Jemez Pueblo in Northern New Mexico refer to the landscape as Ky'âawaamu. Their Keres-speaking neighbors to the south at Zia Pueblo, whose homes now sit near an important confluence of the Rio Grande River, refer to this ancestral landscape as Huniona coshcotwit. And the Hopi speakers, in the ceremonies and stories of their thriving pueblos in eastern Arizona, refer to the Monument's landscape as Tawtoykya, meaning "the place where the songs came from.” The Hopi word ltaakukuveni is another important linguistic testament to their modem and ancestral connection with this landscape as it is their word for "footprints” and is used to describe the extensive and widespread artifacts and pueblos intentionally left by their Hopi ancestors (the Hisatsinom) as a tool for their descendants to identify the breadth of their ancestral landscape and the depth of their cultural knowledge. That these "footprints" remain on the landscape is also a boon to archaeologists, to architects, and to the modem cultures that now live in this unique environment. Puebloan individuals, families, and communities developed and refined techniques that allowed them to thrive in this landscape for hundreds of generations, not least of which were their architectural methods used for designing and building sustainable homes perfectly suited to the wild temperature fluctuations, strong winds, and ever-variable precipitation regimes of the mountains, canyons and desert floors of the Southwest.
Recent technological developments, such as LiDAR, photogrammetry, and reflectance transformation imaging offer the precision and detail necessary for preserving and understanding these reservoirs of indigenous knowledge. For the past 15 years, the BLM and the Center of Preservation Research at the University of Colorado Denver have worked in partnership to apply these modern techniques to our preservation and understanding of these ancient cultural resources. Through this work, we hope to document one aspect of the multifaceted footprints left by skilled Puebloan men and women, allowing the lessons of construction, adaptability and sustainability contained in the builders' songs to be heard by future generations."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
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.