Monarch Cave Ruins

Monarch Cave
Anasazi Ruins

Cedar Mesa

          Monarch Cave is a beautiful Anasazi (sometimes called Ancient Pueblo or Ancestral Pueblo) cliff dwelling tucked high into an alcove above a shady desert pool of water. Several interesting pictographs and petroglyphs line the nearby cliff walls.

Circle of Friends:
          Monarch Cave is part of the "Circle of Friends" program. Members of the "Circle of Friends" have access to more specific information, explicit route information, GPS waypoints, trailhead location and detailed maps. If you would like more information on joining the "Circle of Friends" visit the sign up page.

"Circle of Friends"

Stormy in Monarch Cave Ruins. Metate used to grind corn

General Information:
          Monarch Cave Ruins require a short hike. Please take only pictures and leave only footprints. Monarch Cave is rated 1A I using the Canyon Rating System. A good route desription and a GPS are extremely useful in verifying you are on the correct course. The area is criss crossed with confusing roads and trails. Navigation for this route is moderate.    

Sierra and Stormy at pictograph Metate used to grind corn complete with corn.

Trailhead Information:
          The trailhead is usually accessible to all vehicles in good weather. A vehicle shuttle is not required for this route.

Monarch Cave Ruins

          The Monarch Cave Ruins contain an inscription from the Illustrated America Exploring Expedition of 1892. Warren K. Moorehead was appointed as leader of the Illustrated America Exploring Expedition to explore, survey, map, photograph, and secure specimens in southeastern Utah. Although the Illustrated America Exploring Expedition collection of artifacts was very small, Moorehead and members of his expedition wrote enthusiastically and romantically about their adventures and discoveries in a series of articles for American Illustrated Magazine. Their descriptions of alcoves and ruins in Butler Wash are memorable.

          Below is a sketch made by a member of the 1892 Illustrated America Exploring Expedition of Monarch Cave Ruins. It's interesting to note the ruins appear to remain in about the same conditions as when they were first discovered.

Monarch Cave Ruins in 1892.

          Here is what the 1892 Illustrated America Exploring Expedition wrote about the discovery of Monarch Cave.

          After Mr. Moorehead left us, in one of the deep canyons, about two miles south of Eagle Nest Cave, we discovered one of the most picturesque series of ruins that we had yet seen. It is situated in a beautiful box canyon in the rocky divide between Butler's Wash and Comb Wash, about nine miles south [Note: South is a direct quote, the correct direction is North.] of the Rio San Juan. The canyon is bout half a mile in length, but what a contrast it affords to the monotonous and bare mesa and valleys outside! here instead of of stunted sage-brush, we find a luxurious growth of large, wide-spreading cottonwood tress, giving delightful shade from the hot sun; and beautiful shrubbery and flowering plants, and cool running water. One can appreciate the great difference only after traveling all day on the dry and sandy mesa, where not a drop of water is to be found, and then entering one of these little side canyons, which seem like paradise on earth. One of the large cottonwood trees measured fifteen feet around the base - a wonderful growth for this locality.

          Directly to the west end of the canyon, the high sandstone cliff's, with a graceful and undulating curve on their weathered surfaces, close together abruptly, forming a large cavern about one hundred feet from the bottom of the canyon. In this cave are the ruins ruins we are about to describe. From their prominent position they command the valley, and their curved fronts, cut with dozens of loopholes, give the effect of a modern fortress. We named it Monarch's Cave, for it must have been monarch of all it surveyed.

          The cavern was thirty-five feet in height at the front, and fifty-seven and three-fifths feet deep, forming an excellent stronghold and a perfect shelter. It is only accessible on the north, and then only by using the ancient footholds which have been cut into the slanting sandstone ledge. As many of these have been worn away, it is with no little difficulty that one gains the entrance into the cave. Directly under the mouth, at the bottom of the canyon, and almost hidden by shrubbery, is a large excellent spring of clear, cold water, measuring thirty feet across and having a depth at the center of four feet. Such a source of water was of extraordinary importance to ancient dwellers in the cavern. It not only supplied them with water, but also irrigated the canyon for the cultivation of their crops. At the back of the cave water trickles down the ledge of rock causing a thick growth of hanging ferns and creeping vines, adding much to the beauty of the place.

          Judging from the large number of loopholes in these ruins, the structure was evidently intended as a fortification. In one room alone we counted twenty-five loopholes. From these the defenders could send their arrows in every direction, up or down the canyon. The front walls of the prominent rooms are all rounded, so that by means of the loopholes the whole canyon below could be commanded. The entire entire aspect of the cave is of defense and protection rather than comfort.

Copyright 2000-, Shane Burrows