Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Simon Canyon Trail near the San Juan River

Simon Canyon is a side canyon along the San Juan River just below the Navajo Dam in northwest New Mexico. The trail head is at the end of 3 mile County Road 4280, off of New Mexico Highway 173 about 18 miles east of the town of Aztec. 

The Simon Canyon Natural Area is a 3900 acre BLM area adjacent to the Navajo Lake State Park.

The Simon Canyon Trail begins at the same point as the San Juan River Trail, which travels east along the clear cold tail water below Navajo Dam. The early part of the trail is a service road along the east rim to a gas well, with the River Trail splitting off to the right.

Past the gas well the foot trail continues along the ledge above the cottonwood trees and riparian habitat of the creek bottom. The habitat along the trail is Pinon Pines and Utah Junipers with scattered shrubs like sagebrush, Mormon Tea, and Prickly Pear Cactus.

About 0.8 miles along the trail is a small ruins site that is associated with the Gobernador era of the Navajos, from 1700 to 1775. There are several similar sites in the region of Navajo Lake, with this one being the northern most. This one is thought to have been vulnerable to Ute raids, leading to the abandonment of the area.

In the Gobernador era, it looks like Navajos were building village style structures, whereas they now live in more dispersed camps. The later Navajo structures that we see now emphasize the Hogans that used Juniper logs and were packed with soil for insulation.

The doorway for this small structure appears to be on the north side. Most current Navajo structures emphasize an eastern entrance to face the morning sun. There is an interpretive sign at the site that indicates that the roof is still mostly intact, but it would be difficult to climb up and view it. I turned around after viewing the ruin for a hike of about 1:00 hour. It looked like a hiker could continue further up the canyon shelf or along the creek bottom.

528614_Cool Camo Russell Outdoors

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