16 Room House is one of a number of
near the San Juan River in the area around Bluff and Mexican Hat Utah.
Many of these ruins are only accessible by boat from the river. 16 Room
House is an exception - you can get to it by driving county roads. 16
Room House is not a large ruin or especially well preserved, but it is
an interesting Pueblo III, Mesa Verdean style ruin. As is typical of
many Pueblo III ruins, 16 Room House seems to have a very “defensive”
While a number of ruins are known by multiple
Room House has more names than any ruin I know of. I’ve seen it called
16 Room House, 16 Room Ruin, 16 House Ruin, 17 Room Ruin, 17 Room
House, 14 Room ruin, 14 Window Ruin and Echo Mesa Ruin. I’m sure there
are more variations as well but no matter what you call it is a great
place to visit.
House Ruin - Click
For the sake of this article I am using the name
House as this is the oldest name for the ruin that I have encountered.
In 1896 a large group of people gathered at the site and posed for a
photo. The caption to the photo calls the ruin 16 Room House
that is what I am using here. If you are interested, view the 1896 photo of 16 Room House
16 Room House is located southeast of Bluff on the
side of the San Juan River in a large alcove facing north overlooking
the flatlands adjacent to the river. Although most ruins face south to
take advantage of sunshine in the winter, 16 Room faces north. This
provides good shade in the summer but does not provide any solar
heating in the winter months. However, in such a perfectly sized
alcove, it is not surprising to find ruins. The alcove has just a
single long ledge and the structures were built along the back of the
alcove in a single row.
this view you see the exterior wall that extends to the edge of the
ledge making it very difficult to travel along the front of the ruin.
This is the view looking toward the east from the center of the ruin.
It used to be quite
easy to visit 16 Room House if you were near Bluff, UT. A little east
of Bluff on Highway 162 there was a swinging foot bridge that connected
the two sides of the river. Built in 1957, the bridge served as the
primary connection between the schools, stores and health care in Bluff
on the north side of the river with the Navajo reservation located on
the south side of the river. The bridge provided an easy access in both
directions and was widely used by both sides. Unfortunately, the bridge
was washed away in a major flood in 2007.
16 Mile Ruin is very close to the south end of the bridge
crossing. In fact, to visit the ruin today, you drive there on Foot
Bridge Road. When the bridge was in place visiting the ruin was highly
recommended to any visitor to the area. However, since the destruction
of the foot bridge, far fewer people visit the ruin. It’s actually
quite easy to get to the ruin by driving county roads that are suitable
to any type of vehicle (assuming normal road and weather conditions).
16 Room House is reached by taking US 191 south
junction with US 163 about 2 miles west of Bluff. The junction is just
west of the Sand Island Petroglyph Panel located at the major river
access site and campground. Turn south at the junction of 191 and 163
and you will immediately cross the San Juan River. Continue south for
several miles while looking for either County Road 441 or County Road
438. 441 is the first road you will encounter when driving south on
191. It is a maintained
Looking east inside the ruin you see the multi stories rooms. In
this photo you can clearly see the line marking the different stories.
not only is the construction markedly different, you can see the holes
in the wall where timbers once supported the floors of the rooms above.
gravel road that provides the shortest access
to the ruin. However, County Road 438 is paved and the pavement lasts
for more than half the distance to the ruin.
County Road 438 actually takes you right to the ruin. About
miles from the ruin there is an intersection where 438 and 441 cross.
At this point, 441 is running north/south and 438 is running east/west.
441 is paved to the south while the roads are gravel in the other three
directions. If you have come from US 191 on 441 it is about 7.7 miles
from 191. At this intersection head north on 441, staying to the right
until the road drops down to the river bottom flats from here it is a
short drive to the large alcove that you will see.
Once you’ve driven to 16 Room House Ruin it is very easy to access
structures. The trail is very obvious and had almost straight up to the
ruin. The ruin stretches along the back of the alcove in a single row
and there are access trails on each side of the alcove. Although the
trail is short, it is steep and can be a very slick buried in some
conditions so take care with your footing. The lower section of the
alcove are a vast field of wild columbines. If you visit in the spring
you will and early summer you will delight in the beautiful flowers
that are like a carpet on the ground. While it is not unusual to find
columbine flowers in Anasazi country, it’s unusual to find this many in
one huge patch.
Looking out from 16 Room House there is a spectacular
vista with the flat river bottom lands in the foreground. It is easy to
imagine that these were important croplands for the Anasazi.
Once you have climbed the
alcove, access to the ruin is easy and obvious. There is a gap near the
center of the room block where you can climb up onto the ledge to view
the rooms in each direction. This is a very skinny ledge and the ruins
occupy all of the space between the edge of the ledge and the back
wall. The Anasazi surely moved both through and on top of the rooms.
However, today we can only look at the crumbled walls and imagine what
the ruin was once like. At one time there were three or four sets of
rooms to the east (left as you face the ruin) that were two story
buildings. They all had roof entrances as well as connecting door ways
on the second floor. To the west (right) were 9 single story rooms that
all had roof entrances only. Many of these rooms have peep holes in
their walls facing the river.
While there are no kivas at 16 Room
House, there is a fire pit chipped into the floor of the lower level
room in the two story block. It has been reported that this large room
served the same function as a kiva. However, I have not seen any
confirmation of this.
About 2 miles east of Bluff on Highway 162 you will
spot the alcove that holds 16 Room House if you look to the south
across the river bottom.
If you choose to visit
16 Room House, please take the utmost care. It’s possible to enter the
room blocks without climbing over any walls or ruins. Once you are in
the room block you can step over some of the room walls to explore the
rooms. However, to get into some of the rooms you have to climb on the
walls DON’T DO THIS! If you're at a place where you can’t
the next room without actually putting your weight on a rock or rock
wall, don’t do it. The rooms you will see our the same as the one you
are in, and the only way we can ensure that these ruins will last into
the future is if we all refrain from ever touching them climbing on
them or putting our weight on them in any way.
16 mile ruin sits above broad, flat, fertile river bottom
that today is farmed and certainly must have been extensively farmed by
the Anasazi. It’s easy to gaze out from 16 Room House and imagine the
view being not too different from that of the ancients.