Coronado and Jemez Historic Sites

We are not archeologists, but we enjoyed our visits to these historic sites.

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The Coronado Historic Site is located off US-550, about two miles from Stagecoach Stop RV Park. Along the west bank of the Rio Grande and adjacent to the Coronado campground, the site features information about early native residents of Kuaua Pueblo and Spanish settlers.

Coronado Historic Site Visitor Center

On a Sunday afternoon in late February, we drove the short distance from the RV Park to the historic site. Tickets for this site are $5.00 and are available at the Visitors Center. We planned to visit Jemez Historic Site the following Saturday and took advantage of the special two-site tickets for $7.00 apiece.

Arriving at the Visitors Center around 2:00 pm, we joined a guided tour led by volunteer docent, Brian. Self-touring is allowed; however, access to the Painted Kiva is by guided tour only and we wanted to go inside.

Brian walked us through the museum, showing us the artifacts discovered at the site during the excavations in the 1930’s. We also learned volunteer archeologists are still finding artifacts on the site.

Displays of Spanish artifacts

As he explained the artifacts, he also gave us a brief history of the discovery of the village by the Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1540.

After we had walked through the museum, we followed Brian across the patio to the Mural room.

During the height of Kuaua, the interior walls of kivas were painted with elaborate murals depicting life in the village. Through the years, the murals were covered with blank layers of plaster creating a new canvas for the next mural. In one kiva, the archaeologists discovered over eighty-five layers of plaster. Seventeen of them covered in vivid displays of animals and religious figures. A selection of these murals are preserved and on display in the Visitors Center’s mural room. Brian explained that a local tribal artist painted replicas of these murals on the walls of the kiva we would be visiting. Out of respect for the tribal culture, we were not allowed to take pictures in the mural room or the kiva.

Leaving the Visitors Center, we began our walk along the path through the site. As we walked, we learned that we were looking at reconstructions of the adobe rooms that are still below the surface. When the site was discovered in the 1930’s, historic preservation was about reconstruction and pageants. The square painted kiva was built during that time to provide visitors with the experience of climbing down into a kiva similar to one that had stood there 700 years ago.

(Click on the individual pictures below to view larger images.)

After completing our walk through the historic site and learning about the people that once lived here, we strolled along the short nature trail to the Rio Grande.

You can find more information regarding the Coronado Historic Site at their website:

The following Saturday morning, we drove to the Jemez Historic Site, completing our two-site visit.

This site is along Scenic Hwy 4, about 18 miles from the junction of US 550 and Hwy 4. We stopped several places before arriving at the site and several more after leaving. There are so many great places along the scenic route that it deserves its own post. Scenic Hwy 4 is coming soon!

The Jemez Historic Site is home to the 500-year old Giusewa Pueblo ruins, the ancestral home of the Jemez Pueblo people. The monument also contains the ruins of the San Jose de los Jemez Mission, visitor center exhibits and an interpretive trail.

The site is much larger than the Coronado site and contains ruins. The mission was constructed between 1621 and 1625 with Pueblo Indian labor. The ruins are among of the best preserved in the American Southwest.

This site also features a reconstructed kiva. The largest excavated kiva at the site is still used by Jemez tribal members.

After arriving at the Visitors Center and showing our tickets, we received an interpretive trail guide. Unlike Coronado, we would be on our own as we toured the site.

Before going outside and starting the trail, we walked through the exhibition in the Visitors Center. There were poems, paintings and various other pieces presenting the history and culture of the Jemez people in their own words. We walked slowly around the room, reading the stories and looking at the art and photos. We would love to be able to share them with you, however, no photos were allowed.

Once outside, we started walking the interpretive trail.

This is a photo of the Mounds of Giusewa, number three on the trail. The small hills and stone walls you see are the ruins of Giusewa Pueblo. Only 18 percent of this site has been excavated. Much of the site is still intact beneath the ground. The site is estimated to have been occupied in the 1300’s.mounds-of-giusewa

Below are pictures of the reconstructed kiva from the ground level and roof. The kiva is accessed by climbing up the ladder on the outside wall, then climbing down into the kiva from the roof. This kiva was not painted inside, like the one at Coronado. Out of respect, no photos are allowed inside.

There are blocks of rooms that date to the early 1600s.

The largest structure at the site is the San Jose de los Jemez Mission Church. Constructed under the supervision of Fray Geronimo Zarate Salmeron in 1621, it was designed in the baroque style. The remaining pictures are of the church and the attached structures that were a part of daily life in the mission.

(Click on the individual pictures below to view larger images.)


Panoramic ruins at Jemez Historic Site

Panoramic Mission Church Jemez

You can find more information regarding the Jemez Historic Site at their website:


1 comments on “Coronado and Jemez Historic Sites”

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