The Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum, located in Blanding, UT, is not only a museum, but also an Ancestral Puebloan site and an archaeological repository which houses the largest collections of Ancestral Puebloan artifacts in the Four Corners region. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll remember that my very first visit to the museum was in April of this year when I attended their ‘Back Room Perishables’ evening program. At that time I was a little embarrassed that I had lived in San Juan County for over 2 years and had never been to Edge of the Cedars, but I’m happy to report that since then I’ve been back several times! There’s a lot to see there, and the exhibits change regularly, so there’s always something new on display.
On my last visit the weather was a little iffy and it wasn’t raining when I arrived, so I headed straight out back to take a look at the Ancestral Puebloan site before it started raining.
The village at Edge of the Cedars is part of a large network of Puebloan communities that flourished in the Four Corners region in A.D. 750-A.D. 1300. It was first settled in A.D. 825 and was abandoned in A.D. 950. It remained unoccupied until a new group of came and stayed until about A.D. 1125. This new group built on to the existing structure adding the Great Kiva, the central pueblo, and the surrounding unit pueblos. There is evidence of remodeling that was done by about A.D. 1215, but by A.D. 1225 the village appears to have been abandoned.
After sitting abandoned for over 800 years, extensive excavation and some reconstruction had to be done before the site could be opened to the public. From the late 1960s-1970 Weber State College and Brigham Young University were invited to excavate the ruin.
Throughout the museum grounds visitors can see numerous sculptures by Joe Pachak, an artist from Bluff, Utah– just 26 miles south of Blanding. Of all his sculptures at the Edge of the Cedars, my favorite is definitely the Sun Marker. It’s a representation of several rock art archaeoastronomy sites where the movements of light and shadow at the solstices and equinoxes may have been used to measure time and seasons by the people who created them.
The picture below is a part of the Sun Marker sculpture which depicts one of these archaeoastronomy rock art sites. At sunset on the winter solstice a thin, vertical beam of light perfectly pierces the center of the spiral.
I made it through the outside part of the park (without getting rained on!) and headed inside to look at all the artifacts and everything that I hadn’t been able to spend much time looking at when I was there for the evening program.
The Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum opened to the public in 1978 after many, many years of planning by several different groups and organizations. The idea to build a museum in Blanding originally came from Albert R. Lyman, the first Anglo settler in what is now the town of Blanding.
The project changed hands many times, starting with the Blanding Chamber of Commerce in 1960, to the newly formed Blanding Museum Committee in 1967 then back to the Chamber of Commerce by the end of that same year. In 1968 the project was transferred to the San Juan Resource Development Council (which later became the Utah Navajo Development Council) who saw the project to completion. The museum now houses the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan artifacts that can be found in the Four Corners region.
One of the most unusual artifacts in the museum’s collection is the macaw feather sash which was found by Kent Frost in 1955 in Lavender Canyon. (near what is now the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park) The reason this sash is so unusual is the fact that it was made out of macaw feathers- a bird that is native to Mexico, but the feathers are attached to the pelt of an Abert’s squirrel- a species of squirrel that, in Utah, is only found in the Abajo Mountains.
If you’re passing through San Juan County, UT and have time for nothing else, Edge of the Cedars State Park is the one place that absolutely CANNOT be missed!
Distance from Edge of the Cedars to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:
- Blanding: 0 miles/0 km
- Monticello: 22 miles/35 km
- Bluff: 26 miles/42 km
- Mexican Hat: 52 miles/ 84 km
- La Sal: 65 miles/105 km
- Monument Valley: 73 miles/117 km