Mule Canyon Ruin is an open Anasazi habitation site consisting of both above- and below-ground structures. This site was first occupied briefly in the Pueblo I time period (about A.D. 750) but the main occupation was during the Pueblo II and Pueblo III transition period (about A.D. 1000 to 1150). The readily visible L-shaped block of 12 rooms and the masonry kiva and tower were connected by two crawlways (tunnels). A subterranean pithouse, dirt-walled kiva, and trash areas were also found.
The room block was used by two or three family groups primarily for sleeping and storage. They entered through roof hatchways with ladders, as well as through doorways. During good weather, cooking and other daily activities took place on the roof or in the plaza
The underground kiva was a focal point for ceremonial activities. From studying contemporary Pueblo Indians, descendents of the Anasazi, archaeologists believe that these ceremonies were reserved primarily for males. The kiva was roofed over with logs (usually juniper), then covered with earth. Access into this kiva was through a hole in the roof using a ladder, as well as by tunnels which are uncommon in the area.
The circular tower was probably two stories high when in use. It's function is unknown, but may have been solar observation, defense, communication, or storage. The linkage of towers to kivas by tunnels may indicate the tower was used for ceremonial practices. Mule Canyon Ruin is in a direct line of sight with Cave Towers, one mile to the southeast, which may mean the towers were used for signalling between the two communities.
Botanical studies have shown that corn, beans, and squash were the staple foods. These were supplemented with a variety of wild plant and animal foods. Pottery and architecture from this site indicated a strong influence from the Mesa Verde subculture of the Anasazi from southwest Colorado. However, the Kayenta subculture influence from northwest Arizona is also apparent in numerous pottery fragments. Butler Wash Ruin, located six miles to the east, has a square kiva, which also indicates a Kayenta influence.
Because of its proximity to the highway and its excellent preservation, Mule Canyon Ruin was selected as an interpretive rest stop and developed through the cooperative efforts of county, state and federal governments. In 1973 archaeologists from the University of Utah excavated the site, giving special attention to the structures and the trash areas. The ruin was stabilized by the National Park Service in 1973 & 1974. The Utah Department of Transportation constructed the parking loop, and the Bureau of Land Management built the kiva's protective roof, the trails and the rest rooms. San Juan County helped fund this interpretive display.
We hope you enjoy your visit here; please treat this site with respect so that others can also appreciate it. Remember that archaeological resources such as Mule Canyon Ruin are protected by both Federal and State laws. Please do not deface the site or remove any artifacts, no mater how small. We need your help to protect and preserve our Southwest heritage.