Out There Hikes:
 Wetherill Trading Post Sites

This Ancient Puebloan cliff dwelling is found along with many others in Sand 
Canyon west of Cortez, Colorado in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument . . . Please take a look
at the photo of the Ojo Alamo trading post site at the end of the story.

Wetherill Trading Post Sites in De Na Zin Wilderness Area
Just south of Farmington, NM
By Craig Watson

Harvey, 2 other Prescott friends and I drove south of Farmington about an hour to explore areas around the De Na Zin Wilderness Area. Two Wetherill family trading posts had been located here. Harvey is John Wetherillís great grandson and the family historian today. Harvey did his homework as usual and we were able to find an old Winslow Wetherill post: Te Dzin Trading Post, in the northwestern area of the De Na Zin Wilderness.

At least we suspect we located the site, as several structures lay in ruins there and the longitude and latitude nearly matched Harveyís researched coordinates. This along with the Ojo Alamo Trading Post of John Wetherillís (our next destination out here today) and the Richard Wetherill Pueblo Bonito Trading Post in Chaco Canyon to the south 20 miles were all Hyde Bros.-owned Posts during the late 1890s and early 1900s. The Wetherillís operated the posts for this wealthy NY family.

Later the U.S. Government which had licensed these posts and traders denied permits (either because of declining business or competition problems with all being owned by the Hyde Bros.). This triad of posts fell into decline so Winslow and John abandoned their posts after only several years in this area.

From the northwest area of the De Na Zin, we drove over to the southeast area of the Wilderness Area, some 20 miles from this site and parked in the marked lot just off the gravel county road hugging the southern boundary.

This is my first time here in De Na Zin. It's hard to believe these 3 Wetherill men had trading business out here, itís so barren, a moonscape. Of course more Navajos lived here then and maybe it was wetter too.

We ground-tied the Beast of Burden Suburban and allowed it to chill out in the parking area around 10 am, signed in at the trailhead register and took off. Again, Harvey had done his historical research and had programmed the suspected location of his great grandfatherís - John Wetherillís ó "Ojo Alamo" Trading Post into his portable Global Positioning System (GPS). Harvey had received this device as a gift and was adept with it already. I was amazed how it works and how incredibly useful it would prove itself to be for our "research".

At any given time on the trail, Harvey turned on the GPS and it told us how far to go and in which direction to find the programmed location for the trading post. It also reported how many satellites were responding to our GPS. The number varied between 7 and 11 or so! The precision was astounding to me, probably directly varying with the number of satellites triangulating us. We would walk a little bit and the distance we had to go yet was a hundred feet less out of the miles we covered.

Apparently we were on one of the ancient Indian trails. It made a few forks but the GPS indicated the correct direction at every one. We passed petrified logs of immense size. We came to a spring which was fascinating out here in so much extreme dryness. The spring formed a wide shallow pool, a mini oasis.

"Ojo Alamo" means Cottonwood tree in Spanish. So what? Amazingly, this is all we really needed to find the site as almost no trees grow out here. THE single Cottonwood tree at the Wetherill post site is still there, with massive trunk and extensive limb structures, some burned off from lightning. We estimated its age to be probably 300-400 years from its size, rooted near a significant spring and sub-surface water. We had lunch here under the tree and explored the immediate area.

This was the perfect excuse to get into the De Na Zin Wilderness Area. From Harveyís historical photographs we could place exactly the footers of the vanished homestead and corrals. Some structural work has been done to the spring in more recent years however. A large concrete watering trough is here And we lifted off the cistern cover to find a bucket on a rope down to several feet of clear water at the bottom. It was the only heart-warming, life-sustaining evidence in sight and that was at the bottom of a covered hole, in addition to that venerable cottonwood Man-O-War, of course!

The walk from the truck had been a good hour or more, but easy and very interesting. The Wetherillís had reported finding dinosaur bones behind the post here at Ojo Alamo. While we rooted around the neighborhood an hour or so, we had no further hints or clues as the area "behind" the trading post goes forever. So we noted some Anglo rock art, signatures with dates, and packed up for the pleasant amble back.

We drove east down this dirt road to the highway and from there it was another hour back north to Farmington.

Harvey (left) and I are framing that lone cottonwood tree between us in the distance.  That is the Ojo Alamo site.


Out There

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