This tour is purely geology and paleontology - no archaeology exists in this region.  Badlands are by definition landscapes that are unsuitable for human habitation.  But don't let that deter you - much older creatures once lived here and their fossilized remains are frequently seen, along with otherworldly formations carved by water and wind.  This hike is our most strenuous - it is a minimum of 4 miles round trip.  The longest Bisti hike we've ever led was at least 8 miles, and each participant must have a backpack and carry all their water and food.  Badlands are dangerously hot and unsafe to visit in the summer, so this tour is not available May 1 through September 30.  Already visited?  There are many variations and no trails - we can find something you haven't seen!

It's one of the questions we hear most often, and the answer is, YES!  The site that is part of our museum and grounds, Salmon Ruins, is a partially excavated Chacoan Outlier village.  Because so much of it was excavated, and we give visitors an extensive trail guide at the front desk when they first enter, we only give guided tours of the Salmon site on special occasions, such as our Summer Solstice Alignment tour or a student group's visit.  We prefer for people to visit the site and outdoor exhibits at their own pace, read as much of the guide as they are interested in, and then ask us questions they might have developed when they get back inside.  But for some of our travelers, the more sites they visit, the more they want to know.  Some travelers have always wished to spend the day with a professional archaeologist and ask all the questions they've never been able to find answers for - not just about the Southwest, but archaeology around the world.


Those kind of travelers are some of our favorite people!  After all, what good is our job of studying cultures of the present and past if we only have other researchers to share our discoveries with?  We love the chance to take people out to visit sites that they might not have heard of or have no safe way to access without a local guide who knows where to go (or not go!), and this region is packed with them!  Every tour is specially adapted to the people who are participating on that day.  You will never be made to feel like the information and presentation is memorized and recited, because the tour is based entirely on the questions you ask.  Which sites we visit, how fast we walk, and how much time we spend is also based on the abilities and interests of the people who are participating on that day.


Every tour begins at 8 am and ends between 4 and 5 pm the same day.  Your tour guide, a professional archaeologist who has worked in the region for many years, will be doing all the driving to save you and your vehicle from rough or dangerous roads and weather conditions.  Your guide will attempt to answer all of your questions, explain how archaeology is performed today, and show you around a variety of sites.  All of the water you will need (a lot, during hot times of the year!) and a hearty lunch will be provided for you as well.  If this sounds like something you would be interested in, you'll need to decide where you want to go!

Bisti Badlands

One of the most important resources in the Four Corners states are their huge expanses of public land, mostly managed by the Bureau of Land Management or BLM.   People know that this landscape contains tens of thousands of archaeological sites, but there are also hundreds of natural sandstone arches to be discovered.  Many of the arches are located close to archaeological sites and rock art panels.  On this tour, we'll visit some of our favorite arches and hoodoos (rocks shaped by the wind to look like people, animals and fanciful shapes) as well as some of the archaeology of the area.  The views can't be beat!  This is an extremely flexible tour that can involve a lot or a little hiking, depending on your interests and abilities.  There are so many arches in this area, that we can do at least 10 completely different arches tours, so come back again!

The most requested of our tours is a visit to Chaco Canyon, which is extremely difficult to access due to bad road conditions and, at certain times of year, rain and mud that makes the road impassible.  Once in Chaco, we'll visit several of the Great Houses - which ones depends on your abilities and interests, but Pueblo Bonito is always included, and talk about the people who built these complex cities.  Chaco is only one branch of a wide-spread cultural group who built villages throughout the southwestern states and were the ancestors of people who ultimately developed into the 20 modern day Pueblo tribes.  Salmon and Aztec are just two of several hundred Chacoan outlier villages, which are part of the network that enabled people to trade and interact across the hundreds of miles of southwestern desert between 1200 and 800 years ago.

You may have driven through the Navajo Nation, but before the Din'e (a word in their own language that means "the People") were forced onto the reservation their nomadic lifestyle brought them down from the Canadian plains, through Wyoming and Colorado.  By the 1400s they were hunting, gathering, and experimenting with agriculture in northwest New Mexico.  During the 1600s they began building defensive structures to protect their families and livestock from warfare with the Spanish explorers and other displaced tribes.  We'll visit several of these defensive "Pueblito" structures as well as spectacular rock art from the same era.  In the "Dinetah" region, it is possible to see many of the places that are identified in Navajo mythology.  This tour can involve a lot or a little hiking, depending on your needs, interests and abilities.

Do You Give Tours?

Dinetah (Navajo Defensive Sites)

Chaco Canyon

Copyright May 1, 2020  San Juan County Museum Association at Salmon Ruins Museum. All rights reserved.

 

You bring the adventurous spirit,
we'll supply the archaeology!

Arches and Archaeology