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Cedar Mesa
  Grand Gulch
     Kane Gulch
         Junction Ruin
         Turkey Pen Ruin
     Toadie Canyon
     Sheiks Canyon
   Mule Canyon
     Cave Canyon Towers
     Mule Canyon Ruin
     N.Fork Mule
     S.Fork Mule
   Lime Canyon
   Road Canyon
     7 Kiva Ruin
     N. Fork Road
   Slickhorn Canyon
   John's Canyon
   Arch Canyon
   Walnut Knob

Comb Ridge
  Procession Panel
  Wolfman Panel
  Upper Butler Wash
    Butler Wash Ruin
    Ballroom Cave
    Target Ruin

Canyon of the Ancients
  Lowry Pueblo
  Ruin Canyon
  Montezuma Creek

San Juan River
  16 Room House
  Sand Island Panel

Canyonlands N.P.
  Island In The Sky District
     Aztec Butte

Hovenweep N.M.

Other Cool Places
  Little Westwater Ruin
  Moki Dugway
  Milk Ranch Point
  Whiskers Draw
  Moki Dugway

 
Camping Index
Camping in Anasazi Country
Anasazi Country Campgrounds
Selecting a Campsite
Selecting a Tent Site
Selecting a Tent
Sleeping Bags & Pads
The Camp Kitchen
Campfires
Water Supplies



Cave Canyon Towers Ruin

      The Cave Canyon Towers Ruin, also called the Cave Tower Ruins, Mule Canyon Towers, Seven Tower Ruins or Five Tower Site, features the remains of towers perched on both sides of the head of Cave Canyon, a short steep side canyon on the west side of Mule canyon. The site is easily accessed from Hwy 95 and is a great place to experience the tower construction of the Anasazi.

 
Cave Tower RuinsClick to enlarge
   The access to the Cave Canyon Towers is on the south side of Hwy 95 at about mile 102.5. There is a gate to a spur road that you can open and drive through. Always close this gate behind you when you pass through it! The spur road should be considered 4wd only but the road is short and its easy to park near the gate and walk to the towers.

     The road ends in an open, unstructured parking area. There is no specific trail to the towers which are just north/east of the parking area. Its easy to find a trail heading to the east and you will very quickly spot the Towers. They are located on both sides of the head of Cave Canyon with one significant tower still standing on each side of the canyon.
Mule Canyon Towers Ruin Click to enlarge
     Cave Tower Ruins sit at the head of a short tributary of Mule Canyon.  It consists of both the towers on the canyon top and multiple groups of structures tucked into the cliff overhangs on both sides of the canyon.

    There is no way off knowing the exact purpose of these towers. While they seem like they are defensive in nature we should not be too quick to assign that role. They are not closely associated with a village so there is no logical place for them to be protecting. There is a water source at the head of Cave Canyon and it is possible that this had some bearing on the use of the towers, perhaps for religious reasons. The towers were multi-storied and their height undoubtedly provided great observation opportunities. The ruined tower at the Mule Canyon Ruin is a mile north of here and the towers would have been within the line of sight of each other.

     Although there is no substantial village associated with the towers, there are a number of small sites and structures tucked into the alcoves on both sides of the canyon. As the canyon drops steeply from the towers, the exposed rock layers provide a lot of good building sites. With binoculars you can spot a few sites below the south/west rim and a number of structures and small building groups on the north/east side of the canyon. Access to the sites on the south/west wall is impractical and access to the sites on the north/east side requires a pretty good scramble and the ability to pick a route. 

Anasazi ruin bekow Mule Canyon TowersClick to enlarge
     There are structures tucked into the alcoves on both sides of the canyon. However, the sites on the south/west side are not accessible while the sites on the north/east side of the canyon are.
     If you are determined to try to reach the cliff dwellings that are obvious when looking down at the north/east wall of the canyon, you will find a spot where you can drop over the rim of the canyon that is at the end of a faint trail heading toward the canyon edge from the main tower ruin on the same side of the canyon. Following this route requires a step down as your first move into the canyon and usually there are rocks piled on the ledge below to help with this step. Once you have reached the ledge you can pick your way down and along the canyon wall.

     None of the cliff dwellings in the canyon, or the towers on the rim, have been stabilized or restored in any fashion. These are delicate ruins and it is critical that you enjoy them from enough distance that you do not disturb them in any fashion. Stay out of them and off of them - do what you can to keep them preserved for many years into the future.

    Although I've visited this site several times I've never noted  how many towers I count and I've read a number of different accounts of how many towers there are. I have seen it reported as 5, 6 or 7 towers. When you visit you can decide for yourself how many there are. Even though they are common at Hovenweep, there are few towers on Cedar Mesa and this is a great place to see them.
Anasazi tower ruin at Mule Canyon TowersClick to enlarge

     Cave Canyon is a short steep canyon that joins Mule Canyon a bit south of where it crosses under Hwy 95. Mule Canyon is interesting as it has two upper forks, each of which are deep and steep walled canyons (South Fork Mule Canyon  North Fork Mule Creek). Typically canyons get deeper as they approach their lower ends but Mule Canyon gets very shallow in the middle. From the highway crossing up canyon to the junction of the two forks Mule Canyon is very flat and shallow. The canyon gets deep quickly after the highway and Cave Canyon drops just as quickly. In fact, Cave Canyon is the only practical access point for hiking into the upper section of Mule Canyon below Hwy 95. While many people hike a mile or two into Mule Canyon from the lower end, few visit the middle/upper sections of the canyon.

     Although Cave Canyon does provide excellent hiking, most people visit to explore the Cave Canyon Towers. While not as elaborate or well preserved as other ruins, this is the best place to see tower ruins on Cedar Mesa. The access is easy and exploring the Cave Canyon Towers Ruin is a short trip that can be combined with one or more other short hikes to make a full day.
     


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