Written by Denise Ryan
On Thursday, Colorado's Chimney Rock came one step closer to becoming the U.S. Forest Service’s seventh national monument and their only national monument dedicated to the preservation of cultural resources. The National Trust has been a champion for Chimney Rock for many years, and today the Forest Service’s most important cultural site has a new champion: freshman Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO).
Rep. Tipton introduced the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act in the House on July 21, 2011. Rep. Tipton’s bill is very similar to the bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Michael Bennet in March 2011 and was considered in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May 2011. We hope that Rep. Tipton’s bill will receive a hearing in the House Natural Resources Committee following the August Congressional recess.
Chimney Rock is arguably the most important cultural site managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Exhibiting many of the features that earned Chaco Canyon a World Heritage Site designation, Chimney Rock was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. Between A.D. 925 and 1125, the ancestors of modern Pueblo Indians occupied Chimney Rock, and the site remains of cultural significance to many descendant tribes. Hundreds of cultural elements surrounding Chimney Rock’s soaring twin rock spires, including the Great House Pueblo. Chimney Rock is the northernmost and highest (7,600 feet) Chacoan site known to exist. Every 18.6 years the moon, as seen from the Great House Pueblo, rises between the rock spires during an event known as the Major Lunar Standstill. The last Standstill was in 2006 and the next time we can witness this dramatic event will be in 2024 and 2025.
The designation of Chimney Rock as a national monument enjoys the support of the bipartisan Archuleta County Commissioners, the Town Council of Pagosa Springs and a host of local, state and national preservation and conservation organizations.
Denise Ryan is the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s program manager for public lands policy.