This past Friday, as part of his America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, President Obama signed legislation that officially designated Colorado’s Chimney Rock a national monument. The move extends permanent federal protection to the site, and 4700 acres surrounding it, all of which are located inside the San Juan National Forest.
At the center of the new monument is the 315-foot-tall rock spire that dominates the landscape and covers more than 1000 acres by itself. But this natural stone formation, which can be seen for miles in all directions, also happens to be the location for an important archaeological site. Chimney Rock was once home to a thriving community of Pueblo Indians who first inhabited the area about 1000 years ago. Remnants of that community remain today, with over 200 small dwellings, as well as some larger workspaces and ceremonial structures, still in place. It is believed that at its peak, the site was home to more than 2000 people.
In July of this year, an economic survey was conducted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to determine the impact of designating Chimney Rock a national monument. That study found that not only would there be a sharp increase in the number of visitors to the site but those additional visitors would also mean more revenue for the surrounding communities. The study indicated that the local economy could see an annual boost of as much as $1.2 million in the years ahead.
[Photo credit: Kevin Moloney/New York Times]