Chimney Rock at sunset
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Up a winding road about 15 miles past Pagosa Springs in southwestern Colorado, rests within the San Juan National Forest a natural and archeological wonder: Chimney Rock. Chimney Rock is known for its twin rock spires that can be seen from miles away, but its true value lies in the 1,200-year-old Native American ruins visible only to those who visit.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to protect Chimney Rock as a national monument. Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, in addition to Congressman Scott Tipton, support protecting Chimney Rock. While legislation passed the House today, it could be a while until the Senate votes. However, President Barack Obama could protect Chimney Rock today and ensure that this treasure is protected for future generations to enjoy.
The history of Chimney Rock can be traced back to 925 C.E. when the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians lived there until 1125. People from across the United States come here to view the remnants of a civilization, and national forest land surrounding the 4,700-acre archaeological area.
There is something for everyone in Chimney Rock. It attracts archeology enthusiasts for its still-intact structures. Hikers and nature lovers come to hike the ruins and surrounding San Juan National Forest. It remains a sacred place for today’s Pueblo tribes, due to its cultural significance. For whatever reason you come to Chimney Rock, you cannot ignore the Great House Pueblo. From the Great House, you can witness the Northern Lunar Standstill -- or the rising of the moon between the rock spires -- which only happens every 18.6 years.
It is for all these reasons that people on the ground, in Congress, and the Obama administration support protecting Chimney Rock. Less than a week before the House passed the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act (H.R. 2621), more than 150 people attended a listening session in Pagosa Springs to ask President Obama to designate Chimney Rock as a national monument by using the Antiquities Act.
The Antiquities Act is a law established by Congress under President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to protect for future generations America’s cultural, historical and natural treasures. Nearly every president since Roosevelt’s time has used this Act to protect places like the Grand Canyon, Statue of Liberty and the U.S. Virgin Islands Coral Reef national monument. President Obama has used the Antiquities Act to protect Fort Monroe in Virginia and Fort Ord in California.
There is no reason to wait. Chimney Rock is too important for too many people to risk not preserving it. President Obama has the ability to act today.