top of page
  • Mike

A guide to visiting Salmon Ruins.

See that little #3 in the picture above? While there are guided tours available they give you a pamphlet that contains information about the site. As you walk through the ruins you'll find these little posts everywhere. Each post corresponds with information about the location inside the ruins.

Salmon ruins is located roughly 10 miles to the east of Farmington, on New Mexico highway 64 near Bloomfield. This is a guide to visiting this interesting site. Salmon ruins is what remains of a Chacoan and Pueblo city that once existed here. Constructed around 1090 CE the site is extremely old and extremely well preserved. It's not well advertised like Aztec Ruins to the north and you can easily miss the sign.

Salmon ruins is not owned by the National Park Service like Aztec ruins and therefore lacks the federal funding and exposure that Aztec ruins does. Nevertheless those that run and own Salmon Ruins have done an amazing job with what they have and have managed to preserve what is a wonderful piece of indigenous history of the Four Corners area.

The address of Salmon Ruins for putting in your GPS is 6131 US-64, Bloomfield, NM. Once you arrive you'll be greeted by an interesting visitor center with some interesting architecture. The clash of modernist architecture with traditional Puebloan Kiva as an integrated part of the building is brilliant and often unnoticed. You should admire the visitor center here for what a nice building it is both inside and out.

Salmon Ruins is open from 9-5 every day excluding some holidays. If you're unsure about whether or not the museum and grounds will be open on the day of your visit their phone number is 505-632-2013. After paying for admittance you will be able to view both the museum and gift shop before seeing the ruins themselves. Unlike Aztec Ruins, Salmon Ruins is self-funded. The kiva inspired museum area explains in quite a bit of detail the history of not just the specific ruins at Salmon, but also a lot about the Pueblo culture and history in the Four Corners area.

Upon stepping out of the gift shop you will be greeted by the nice shaded seating area with cafe style chairs and tables, as well as a wonderful overview of the grounds and surrounding area looking towards the Animas River bottom.

After a steep descent from the visitor center down a paved ramp one will find themselves at a crossroads of sorts.

In one direction is the 'Heritage Park,' and in the other are the ruins themselves. On the way to the ruins one will find a more modern looking adobe building as well as a root cellar and other small outbuildings. This is not an insignificant piece of the history of Salmon Ruins. The ruins get their name from Peter Milton Salmon and his family who homesteaded the land surrounding and including the ruins back in the late nineteenth century.

These buildings serve as a legacy to the preservation of the site over the course of the 20th century In 1969 the 22 acres including and surrounding the ruins was purchased by the county and the modern-day museum and improvements were subsequently built in the following years.

A map of the ruins
Shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia

As is the case with almost all of the ruins from the Chacoan and Pueblo construction, the long wall of the site is aligned near-perfectly to the winter/summer solstice. In the case of the great wall along the top in this diagram, it is near-perfectly aligned to the summer solstice meaning that during the solstice the sun will creep almost perfectly along the wall. However the orbit of Earth has changed over hundreds of years just enough to throw this off a tiny bit, a testament to the age of the structure.

Once you follow the path from the Salmon homestead you'll eventually come to the corner of the ancient ruins and be greeted by the remains of some of the best preserved Chaco architecture outside of Aztec Ruins and Mesa Verde.

See that little #3 in the picture above? While there are guided tours available they give you a pamphlet that contains information about the site. As you walk through the ruins you'll find these little posts everywhere. Each post corresponds with information about the location inside the ruins. It's amazing how symmetrical and well-designed the foundations that remain are. It's also worth noting that in many cases as you walk along the outer wall to think that it was several stories high originally.

One does not need to be a bricklayer or mason, or even architect to appreciate the complexity of the brickwork and careful construction of the ruins. It's really cool to see such complex construction in North America that dates back to the Middle-Ages. At a time where the Renaissance in Europe was going on, there were people here building their own civilization that was unique to the Southwest. It really goes to show that North America wasn't some uninhabited land with a few sparse settlements of people living in the woods as much as the mainstream media and culture tries to portray it.

If you look closely you can even see where damage to the structure was repaired without the same attention to detail as was originally put into it's construction. You can see patch jobs in the rockwork. Speaking of the rockwork itself, it's sometimes beautiful how detailed the construction was, how meticulous the masons that laid these rocks were with their construction.

Younger visitors and those that are less interested in archaeology and history probably won't enjoy Salmon Ruins as much as Mesa Verde with it's adventurous crawls and ladders, or the ability to go inside runs as is the case of Aztec Ruins. The real appeal I think that comes from Salmon Ruins is that the runs are less disturbed and rebuilt than those over at Aztec, it has less of an Indiana Jones vibe and more of a sophisticated academic theme going on.

Salmon runs will probably take 1-2 hours to complete a visit if you aren't going to take extra time anywhere. It's a cool place with a lot of academic work that has taken place in the past, and is still taking place to this day. While there are paths here I doubt almost any of it is ADA compliant, make sure that you can walk along a dirt trail comfortably if you have trouble walking off paved paths.

These paths are not bad by any means but they are not compatible with wheel chairs and they do have a few rocks sticking out as is the case with anywhere unpaved in the prehistoric river basin of the Animas.

Contact info:

For Information about Salmon Ruins the official site is.

The phone number is:


They can also be reached by appointment.

84 views0 comments


bottom of page