Cornforth Images

Cedar Mesa

Cedar Mesa is a plateau in San Juan County in the southeastern portion of the Utah. It extends from Elk Ridge in the north, Comb Wash to the east, the gorge of the San Juan River to the south, and Grand Gulch to the west. The center of the mesa has an elevation of 6,500 feet (1,980 m). The surrounding terrain has a typical elevation of 4,200 feet (1,280 m). This large difference in elevation has led to the formation of numerous canyons, cliffs, and other erosional features on the edges of the mesa. To the east are several canyons draining into Comb Wash, including Arch, Texas, Mule, Owl, Fish, McCloyd, and Road Canyons. Scattered throughout these canyons are ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings.

The Anasazi inhabitants of Cedar Mesa normally hunted on the mesa tops where game was more plentiful. Using ladders or breaks in the sandstone rims, they would descend to these structures to eat, sleep, store food and seek shelter from the weather. The Anasazi culture flourished in this region from approximately 700-1300AD and it is speculated that they eventually were forced from the region by a period of prolonged drought in the late 13th century.

Photographing the Cedar Mesa ruins is a very rewarding experience after relatively short hikes along canyon bottoms. “Firehouse” and “Fallen Roof” ruins are best photographed during the winter months in the late morning after the sun light comes over the canyon rim and reflects off of the rock in front of the ruins up into the alcove causing the spectacular glow.