Turkey Pen Ruin is a well known
Anasazi ruin in
Grand Gulch. It's an easily accessible Anasazi site located in Grand
Gulch just a short distance down canyon from Junction
which is at the junction of Kane Gulch
and Grand Gulch. Kane Gulch provides easy access, making it easy to
visit both Turkey Pen Ruin and Junction Ruin in a single
However, as with all of Grand Gulch, if you can visit as part of a
multi-day backpacking trip, all the better.
Turkey Pen Ruin is located in a large sweeping bend where the
alcove holds the ruins. This photo is looking down canyon and you can
see the remains of structures along the wall. At the far end of the
photo you can see some of the structures located on the upper level.
Hiking to Turkey Pen Ruin
begins at the Kane Gulch
Ranger Station which is located on UT 261 4 miles south of the
UT 95. The site is well signed and there is a good sized paved parking
area. There are pit toilets but water is not available so be sure to
bring all you might need. The Kane Gulch Ranger Station operates
seasonally so don't be surprised if they are not open when you are
there. If the station is manned you can get the latest information
about trails, roads and water availability in the canyons.
All of Cedar Mesa is BLM land
and you will
need to purchase a permit to hike to Turkey Pen Ruin. Depending on the
season, you can purchase your
permit at the Kane Gulch Ranger Station but you may need to self
register and pay at the
kiosk in the parking lot. Day Use
Permits are $2.00 per person per day and a 7 consecutive
day pass is $5.00. Overnight Permits are $8.00 per person per trip. If
you want to backpack into most Cedar Mesa canyons you will need to get
a backcountry permit during peak season. Contact the BLM for
more info. The BLM maintains online information about Cedar Mesa Backcountry Regulations and Fees
Turkey Pen Ruin is on two levels of the canyon
wall. The structures
on the second level can only be accessed in one place which likely made
them defensive in
The Kane Gulch trail begins right
across the road
from the Kane Gulch Ranger Station. The trail is a well maintained and
easy hike as described on our Kane Gulch
page. It is a 4 mile hike down Kane Gulch until you reach Grand Gulch
and the Junction Ruin. From here it about another 1/2 mile hike on easy
trail down canyon to reach Turkey Pen ruin.
Ruin is located along a long sweeping bend in the canyon wall.
Unfortunately, this wall is unstable and rock falls are causing damage
to the ruins and have necessitated the BLM making parts of the site off
limits to hikers. Please respect this closure as it really is based on
safety. Turkey Pen Ruin is on two levels with most of the ruins on the
lower bench. Turkey Pen Ruin was occupied during the
II period and was intermittently occupied until about 700 AD. There
then was about a three hundred year period in which there is little
evidence of Anasazi occupation in Grand Gulch. After about 1000 the
area was occupied until the Anasazi left forever in about 1250.
Click to enlarge This
is the structure that gives Turkey Pen Ruin its name. Although it
certainly looks like a pen, it is actually the remains of a jacal
structure. The upright sticks were bound together and then coated with
mud to form the walls of the structure. The mud has worn away over the
years leaving the upright sticks.
The Structure from which Turkey Pen Ruin gets its
name is actually a jacal structure near the west end of the habitation
area. The upright sticks still hold remnants of the adobe mud that once
covered the sticks to make solid walls. The structure is open to the
south end and there is no indication that it ever had a roof. Although
the purpose and use of this structure are unknown, it almost certainly
was never used to pen turkeys.
Many different types of pottery sherds
from the Pueblo II/III periods have been found at Turkey Pen Ruin. The
oldest are possibly from as early as 800 and with samples of all time
periods found until the latest production which could have been as late
as 1300. Samples of pottery were found that represented Tusayan
Whitewares, Mesa Verde Whitewares, San Juan Redwares and Tsegi
Orangewares. Among surface collected sherds the Mesa Verde Whitewares
are the most common, comprising up to 90% of the surface sherds.
A number of unfired sherds have been
recovered from Turkey Pen Ruin. This is significant because it
indicates the there was local production of ceramics taking place. From
the unfired samples present it was determined that the residents of
Turkey Pen Ruin likely produced Mesa Verde Black on White, Chapin Gray
and corrugated graywares.
There is just a little evidence that
Turkey Pen Ruin was used in archaic times. There have been four
projectile points of two different styles discovered that are from the
Archaic period, however, the exact dating of these points is unknown.
There was significant use of the Ruin beginning in the Basketmaker II
period and a number of artifacts have been recovered from this time
including corner notched points, a Basketmaker style sandal and unfired
clay figurines. Although these artifacts are indicative of B II
occupation, the best indicator of use during this time is the absence
of ceramics in the soil layers which indicates the occupants at that
time did not yet have ceramics, thus, B II.
The Basketmaker III and Pueblo I
periods are represented in the artifacts recovered from the site.
However, all indications are that Turkey Pen Ruin was either lightly or
intermittently occupied during these periods.
The vast majority of Anasazi remains at
Turkey Pen Ruin date from the Pueblo II and Pueblo III periods as
evidenced by the architecture, ceramics, projectile points and
tree-ring dating. This period of intense development and occupation
likely occurred during a 200 year period from about 1050 – 1250. There
is no indication that the site was occupied continuously during this
period and, in fact, some evidence indicates that the site may have
been intermittently occupied during this time.