We were certainly getting our money’s worth from my National Parks Pass on this trip. If you enjoy visiting the National Parks and National Monuments as much as we do, you’ll want to invest in the America The Beautiful Pass. For $80, your pass will be good for a full year. The pass covers entry fees for you and three accompanying adults. When you reach age 62, you can purchase a lifetime pass for only $10.
The National Park Service turns 100 on August 25, 2016. There will be events around the country to celebrate the service’s first century, and kick off the second.
Sunset Crater National Monument is located about 20 miles NNE of Flagstaff. Sunset Volcano erupted about 900 years ago, and spread a thick layer of lava, cinder and ash over 800 square miles. It’s the youngest cone of over 400 volcanoes in the area. Sunset erupted intermittently until about 1085 AD, when a final spew of red cinders gave the crater the fiery appearance for which it was named.
There are large areas of black, craggy lava flow, as well as plenty of black gravel. We drove for several miles through the park, seeing this black lava and gravel and scrub brush. The side of a mountain would be mostly black, with just a few trees and shrubs. Plant life always eventually reclaims the land.
Drive another fifteen miles or so, and you’ll come to Wupatki National Monument, a site that was first inhabited around 500 AD. Several cultures lived here, including the Sinagua, Kayenta Anasazi, and Cohonina peoples, and it’s difficult to determine which were actually responsible for building the pueblo.
The name Wupatki means Tall House in the Hopi language, and it refers to a multistory pueblo that comprises over 100 rooms, a ball court and a community room. The volcanic ash improved agricultural productivity and the soil’s ability to retain water. It’s estimated that about 2,000 people moved into the area during the century following the eruption, but the site was permanently abandoned by about 1225.
During the 1930’s, some reconstruction was conducted at Wupatki, and it was used as offices and lodging for park rangers. The reconstruction was removed in the 1950’s.