Some of the earliest dates determined at Salmon Pueblo indicate presence of a settlement as early as AD 1064, when the first small group of rooms was established and, perhaps, the pueblo cornerstones marked out by the people of the Chaco Culture group.
Building the majority of Salmon Pueblo between 1088 and 1092, the Chaco inhabitants lived here for about 20 years before moving to the newly constructed, nearby Aztec Pueblo. It is believed that the flooding potential of the San Juan River encouraged the inhabitants to move and leave the Salmon Pueblo abandoned.
In AD 1160, a gathering of various cultural groups from around the region found their way to reoccupy the pueblo. This blending of regional groups is called the San Juan Occupation. Because of the dominant pottery styles found during excavations, the San Juan Occupation was formally called the Mesa Verde Occupation, but the name was modified when modern testing showed that the various regional pottery styles were being made with local clays. The use of what had, until new testing, appeared to be the decorated ceramics of trade-wares, were actually made with local clay resources, which indicated that the craftsmen (pottery makers) were from other culture groups, but were making their pottery at Salmon Pueblo.
Around 1250, the San Juan Occupation also abandoned the pueblo. With evidence of ceremonial closure of the kivas, it is still difficult to say with certainty why this second group left. Whatever the reason, the pueblo remained unbothered until the opening of the region to homesteading in 1876.
The purpose of our organization is to:
Conserve the historic and prehistoric resources, landmarks, remains, and records of the Four Corners Area (primarily the San Juan County of New Mexico and adjacent States and Counties) and to make them more generally known to the public.
Establish and maintain a museum or museums in the area for the storage, preservation and display of artifacts and records.
Cooperate with and encourage worthy movements that have as their object the advancement of and interest in the area's historic and prehistoric cultures, native arts and crafts of the southwest, and the advancement of knowledge in the natural history and natural resources of the area.
San Juan County Museum Association By-Laws, (Revised, 1996)
In 1877, Peter Milton Salmon and his family moved west from Indiana to claim a homestead, located just west of Salmon Ruins. Later, in the early 1890s, his son, George Salmon, claimed his homestead on land adjacent to his father's, which contained the ancient ruin. The ruins stayed in family ownership, generally, until 1956. Purchased by San Juan County in 1964, the acreage was immediately placed on a $1 per year, 100 year lease to the San Juan County Museum Association. That same Association is the non-profit, independent 501(c)3 organization that operates the museum and site today.
During the 1970s, approximately one-third of the pueblo was fully excavated, yielding 1.5 million artifacts. Salmon Ruins Museum is one of only two institutions in the entire American Southwest (the other being the Anasazi Heritage Center in Utah) that holds it's field collections on-site: other institutions typically house their excavation collections at universities or federal holding facilities. This on-site availability of archaeological materials facilitates research and greatly reduces the cost of maintaining the collection.
Today, the work at Salmon Ruins Museum continues. Researchers and students are able to access materials for scholarly study, and permanent and temporary exhibits continue to tell the site's story to visitors while helping to preserve precious non-renewable cultural resources. We welcome your questions or research proposals, application to volunteer with us, on-site and regional tour requests, and ideas for educational outreach. Won't you Join Us!
San Juan County Archaeological Research Center and Library
Salmon Ruins Museum
Salmon Ruins and the San Juan County Museum Association are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.