Monticello Box Canyon trip 11.27.2011

We had a trip to the Monticello Box canyon the Sunday after T-Day.  I left the Land Cruiser at home to ride with my friend Chuck who just bought a new 2012 Jeep Rubicon Unlimited . Chuck is just starting in off road and back country adventures.  He dove in with both feet with no worries of any back country pin striping.  I have to admit it was nice being in a vehicle not older than 25 .

After meeting up with the rest of the group in T or C we headed up to Monticello . An addition to the group was Chris who is an archeologist  for the US Forest Service his knowledge of the area was invaluable.

First stop was the town of Monticello. Here is what I found out about Monticello.

(hat tip to      Michael Cook  )

Monticello (originally named Canada Alamosa Spanish for “Canyon of the Cottonwoods”) was settled by ranchers and farmers in 1856. It was built in a square to protect residents from attack. Descendants of the original settlers still live and ranch in the area. The town was headquarters for the Southern Apache Agency before a post was established at nearby Ojo Caliente in 1874. About 500 Apaches lived at Canada Alamosa in 1870. Cochise and his Chiricahuas visited the area in 1871. Most of the Apaches were gone by 1877.      The town was renamed in 1881 by its first postmaster, John Sullivan, of Monticello, N.Y.     Monticello’s cemetery is located on a hill northwest of the historic plaza. Mass is still celebrated at SanSan Ignacio Catholic Church on the Ignacio Church, which stands on the plaza along  in Monticello was built in 1908. The original church was built in 1869, John Sullivan’s home, the old stage stop (now a private the first in Sierra County.residence) and other original buildings.      Two miles south of Monticello along the Canada Alamosa River is Placita (“Little Plaza”). It was settled in the 1840s by the Sedillo family, whose descendants still live there. San Lorenzo Church, built in 1916, and some of the town’s original buildings, including the school house, a dance hall and several homes, still stand.      More than 1,000 families lived in Monticello Canyon, which contains both Monticello and Placita, during its peak. Today, there are fewer than 100 families.(

Cuurtesy MCourtesy Michael Cook)

After a brief stop to check out the plaza and peek into the General Store we started into the  canyon road.  This road is a State of New mexico road but is bordered on both sides by private land . In keeping with the Tread Lightly ethos (  we stayed on the road and respected the boundaries even though it was tempting to walk off the road and see some of the sights close up.

The first stop was some  rock art and the remains of a pueblo. Had Chris not been with us we would have driven right on by .  Like Kirk and I did many times before.  Based on limited study of the ceramics found at the site indicate inhabitation by the Mogollon Indians dated at 1125-1300 AD.

This canyon has a lot of water and was a vital area for the Indians to live and hunt.  It was also an important route for later settlers and soldiers.

Next stop was the site of a Anasazi pueblo . once again without Chris we would not have ever seen it.  Chris stated this pueblo dated from 110-125 years ago . Behind this pueblo was a mesa with a 800 room pueblo called the Victorio site.

Further on the road we stopped and Chris pointed out  the site of an Apache  ‘wickiup” site.   A wickiup was a structure  formed with a frame of wooden arched poles and covered with various kinds of brush, including grass, bark, rushes, reeds or hides of cloth. As the Apache were nomadic, they simply burned them when they moved on, building another at their next camp.

We continued through the final steep canyon walls of the road and could see the remains of tree deposited high on the wall from a flood in 1927.  The road ended  at the location of the  arrest of Geronimo and the near some hot springs in an area considered sacred to the Apache.

Chris had to leave us at this juncture and we continuted into the Cibola forest  to out next objective. The drive through the forest was nice and as we climbed we ran into snow. Our final destination was the fire watch station at Mt Withington at just over 10,000.  It was windy and COLD. The watch station looked well appointed  and must be a nice place to spend a night or two.

It was getting late and we got off the Mtn and headed to NM 60. Saw some antelope  before the  hardball.  Once we hit NM 60 we hauled  but back to El Paso  almost 500 mile round trip.


ichael Cook)rtesy Michael Cook)


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2 responses to “Monticello Box Canyon trip 11.27.2011

  1. Great information, great pictures.


  2. Bill Selzer

    Grdat photos, Mike. We may have nosed around at the canyon. Does the highway from there meet the Interstate at a junction where there is a restored stage or train depot? B


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