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Wupatki National Monument ~ Photos of 12th Century Indian Ruins in Arizona

Updated on September 2, 2016

Wupatki National Monument


Wupatki National Monument


Touring Arizona

In February of one year after my husband and I had already viewed Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in the north central part of Arizona just fifteen miles (24 km) north of Flagstaff, we decided to see the ancient Native American Anasazi and Sinagua Indian ruins which are located another fifteen miles on down the road. We were touring parts of Arizona that we had not seen following a Butler Paper Company manager's meeting in the Phoenix area.

The small National Park Service entrance fee covers both of the National Monuments and they are tied together historically.

Had it not been for the volcanic eruption of Sunset Crater and the resulting ash strewn land enriching the soil, perhaps the Indians would never have moved back to this area of the Colorado Plateau and settled in this region creating these large pueblos. Naturally when the eruption first took place, Indians vacated this part of Arizona for a time.

Their crops of corn and squash thrived with the added nutrients of the volcanic detritus and even though this was an extremely arid upland region, by conserving rainwater they were able to prosper for a time.

Wupatki National Monument (no audio but fantastic still photos)

Wupatki National Monument


Wupatki National Monument

There I am at the Wupatki National Monument.
There I am at the Wupatki National Monument. | Source

Indian Ruins

The Wupatki National Monument has an amazing number of Indian ruins (hundreds, in fact) spread out over many miles and archaeologists will undoubtedly be uncovering areas long into the future learning more about these ancient pueblo building people if there is continuing interest and adequate funding.

Fortunately for visitors to this area, there are paved pathways and one can easily see all of the major points of interest and read about what one is viewing with the help of a guidebook within a short period of time. People are encouraged to stay on the pathways in order to preserve this historic site.

This is not a look at but don't touch type of site. One can actually wander through the structures where deemed safe and certainly it is a photographer's paradise especially with the contrasting colors of the red building stones and the surrounding lands (including the Painted Desert), scrubby but hardy vegetation and mountains in the distance.

The Indians who settled here built permanent stone structures using the local sandstone (called Moenkopi) and it is of a reddish coloration.

They were amazing stone masons!

By building upon some larger rocks or even in the flat areas, they would have spent much time chipping away and creating many rocks of similar sizes which were then mortared together creating many individual rooms as well as communal spaces where they all gathered to have ceremonies or even play games.

One of the largest ruins was a one-hundred room pueblo!

As far as Indian ruins are concerned, this was one of the largest pueblos built back in that time frame of the 12th to 13th centuries in Arizona.

Wupatki National Monument

Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki National Monument | Source

Wupatki National Monument

My hubby at the Wupatki National Monument walking along one of the paths.
My hubby at the Wupatki National Monument walking along one of the paths. | Source

Native American Indians

Three Indian tribes were found living near this part of Arizona. They include the following:

Sinagua - These people are recorded as having lived from the sixth to the fifteenth centuries in areas of Arizona around these parts and further south. They became friendly with many other tribes of Indians and absorbed some of their ideas and cultural aspects. They were hunters, gatherers and farmed using irrigation practices. After the fifteen century any recorded history seems to have disappeared.

Cohonina - Evidence of these people living between the years 500 to 1200 A.D. exists because of pottery, building remnants and arrowheads left behind. They also co-existed with the Anasazi and some think that the Yuman, Walapai and Havasupai Indians descended from them.

Anasazi - Much evidence of these people were found in the 4 Corners region where the States of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet. They were road builders and early astronomers. They migrated several times due to other marauding Indian tribes and also due to periods of famine. It is thought that their descendants include the Arizona Hopi tribe as well as New Mexico's Zunis, Pueblos and Acomas.

Wupatki National Monument


Built during the 12th and 13th centuries the five largest structures that can be viewed at the Wupatki National Monument are called the following:

Wupatki - This is the largest pueblo structure which contained 100 rooms built upon a rock outcropping. In the Hopi language Wupatki means "Big House."

Wukoki - This "castle-like" structure with a standing 20 foot tower probably housed several families and had an adjacent courtyard or plaza for communal activities.

Citadel - This stone structure was built on a mesa at the edge of a cliff and has a commanding view of the surrounding country-side. It would have contained some 50 rooms at one time.

Lomaki - One can actually walk through the rooms of this ruins. Be sure and duck when going through those doorways! They are much smaller than doorways today!

Nalakihu - A little distance from the others, this Hopi word means "House standing alone" and is situated at the foot of the Citadel mesa.

All five of these pueblo ruins can be easily seen with access to the nearby road.

Wupatki National Monument

Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki National Monument | Source

Wupatki Blowhole

Wupatki Blowhole

Another interesting phenomenon can be seen at the Wupatki National Monument. It is a geological blowhole where depending upon pressure differences in an underground cavern air speeds up to 30 miles per hour can be experienced coming out of the hole...and it also at times sucks air inward. This hole in the ground is protected by cement and wire to prevent small things (or beings) to be sucked into it if the air is seemingly being inhaled.

Wupatki National Monument

Looking down at the round ball court at the Wupatki National Monument.
Looking down at the round ball court at the Wupatki National Monument. | Source

Wupatki National Monument

My hubby at the Wupatki National Monument.
My hubby at the Wupatki National Monument. | Source

Wupatki National Monument

This ancient pueblo Indian ruins is situated at a 5,000 foot elevation northeast of the San Francisco Peaks.

Near the arid upland region was the Little Colorado River which lies on the northeastern edge of the national monument.

So why did the Indians who had settled there and were apparently living in these well built stone structures and successfully hunting and farming the volcanic enriched lands vacate the area?

It is thought that a severe drought brought about by climate change sometime in the 13th century drove them out to seek a friendlier environment in which to live.

Left behind for all the many visitors as well as archaeologists who study this site are the many remnants of their habitation.

My husband and I were truly impressed with the Wupatki National Monument. It is a site well worth preserving for people who come generations after this to see, study and enjoy.

Would you like to see the Wupatki National Monument in Arizona?

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Location of Wupatki National Monument in Arizona

A markerWupatki National Monument -
Wupatki National Monument, Coconino, AZ 86004, USA
get directions

Wupatki National Monument ( a good in depth look)

Many other articles about Arizona by this author...

If you care to see many photos & learn about different attractions in Arizona...the Grand Canyon sure to click on this link.

If you enjoyed this article, please take time to give it a star rating. Thank you!!!

5 out of 5 stars from 11 ratings of Wupatki National Monument

Comments are most welcome.

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello georgescifo,

      Even the ruins are interesting and can tell a bit about how the people lived back then. Glad you liked this. Thanks for your comment.

    • georgescifo profile image

      georgescifo 2 years ago from India

      really a super piece of architecture, even though most of them are in is really hard to preserve such heritage buildings for so long. Thanks for sharing this hub..

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi DzyMsLizzy,

      So glad you liked this and that it brought back memories of visiting another ancient site in Colorado with your girls many years ago. I appreciate your comment and information you added. Thanks!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Gosh--this brought back memories from my own trip to see Mesa Verde in Colorado when my girls were young.

      There is a similar story there, with an apparent sudden departure of the native peoples who built the amazing cliff dwellings.

      I found it both fascinating and sad. I checked in your poll that I'd love to see Wupatki as well, but sadly, I no longer have the budget for travel.

      At Mesa Verde, the printed information states that "Anasazi" is a Hopi word that means only "the ancient ones," and is not the name of a tribe, but the Hopi consider the Anasazi to be their ancestors.

      Voted up +++

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Audrey,

      So glad you liked this! Appreciate the comment. Happy holidays to you and those you love.

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