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Arizona

Wupatki National Monument north of Flagstaff, Arizona

Wupatki National Monument was established to preserve the archeological sites from which we can learn about past and present cultures. We have since realized that Wupatki’s history is a complex story of people interacting with this living, evolving landscape. The dynamic processes of volcanism, tectonics, and erosion have created the geologic formations and abrupt elevation changes that provide, within a short distance, a wide variety of habitats for plants and animals. The effects of elevation are startlingly visible along the scenic loop road connecting Wupatki with Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, 18 miles to the south. A drive along this road is a journey from desert grasslands (at less than 5,000’ elevation) to ponderosa pine forest (near 7,000’). Today, Wupatki National Monument protects 56 square miles (35,254 acres) of high desert directly west of the Little Colorado River and the Navajo Reservation. Its vistas preserve clues to geologic history, ecological change, and human settlement. All are intertwined. For its time and place, there was no other pueblo like Wupatki. Less than 800 years ago, it was the tallest, largest, and perhaps the richest and most influential pueblo around. It was home to 85-100 people, and several thousand more lived within a day’s walk. And it was built in one of the lowest, warmest, and driest places on the Colorado Plateau. What compelled people to build here? Human history here spans at least 10,000 years. But only for a time, in the 1100s, was the landscape this densely populated. The eruption of nearby Sunset Crater Volcano a century earlier probably played a part. Families that lost their homes to ash and lava had to move. They discovered that the cinders blanketing lands to the north could hold moisture needed for crops. As the new agricultural community spread, small scattered homes were replaced by a few large pueblos, each surrounded by many smaller pueblos and pithouses. Wupatki, Wukoki, Lomaki, and other masonry pueblos emerged from bedrock. Trade networks expanded, bringing exotic items like turquoise, shell jewelry, copper bells, and parrots. Wupatki flourished as a meeting place of different cultures. Then, by about 1250, the people moved on. The people of Wupatki came here from another place. From Wupatki, they sought out another home. Though no longer occupied, Wupatki is remembered and cared for, not abandoned.

Location
From Flagstaff, take US 89 north for 12 miles (19km), turn right at sign for Sunset Crater Volcano - Wupatki National Monuments. The Visitor Center is 21 miles (34km) from this junction.

Fees:
ca. $5.00 (valid 7 Days) per person, good for both Sunset Crater Volcano and Wupatki National Monuments. Free entrance for children under 16 years old.
Major credit cards are accepted for all fees at Walnut Canyon and Sunset Crater Volcano, but not yet at Wupatki National Monument.
TIP: Buy an annual National Park Pass when planning on visiting multiple National Parks per year.

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Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

   
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Document Information
Source: NPS; photos: magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20090212
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