June 10, 2012

False Kiva in Motion

I caught an episode of Motion, "a daily outdoor exercise and activity program," on TV Sunday. Apparently Motion is a syndicated show where the host and guests hike through national parks and other scenic places.

This episode featured Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The centerpiece was a stop at False Kiva, an "Anasazi" site in the park.

Here's the segment:

False Kiva

And the Wikipedia entry for False Kiva:False Kiva is a human-made stone circle of unknown origin in a cave in a remote area of the Canyonlands National Park, which is located in U.S. state of Utah. It requires some hiking knowledge or special directions to find.

It has become a popular spot for photographers capturing the Southwest, offering a unique frame for the dramatic thunderstorms or clear skies beyond.


While located in a naturally occurring cave, the name False Kiva arises from the uncertainty around the circle of stones' origins and purpose, not whether it is really an authentic kiva.

Disclosure controversy

Debate rages on whether to disclose the exact location of False Kiva as it enjoys a semi-protected status. While park rangers are required to disclose the location of the Class II site, it does not appear on official maps of the park. Because of the remoteness of the location, the site itself is not protected from vandalism of any kind.

However, local guides are available to take interested parties to the site, raising questions as to whether closely guarding the location of False Kiva is particularly effective.

The exact coordinates for False Kiva are occasionally divulged on forums, but GPS users should be aware that these exact directions can place hikers 500 feet directly above False Kiva. Moreover, the trail to False Kiva is unmarked and can take up to three hours of hiking to reach.
Other websites leave the "unknown origin" muddled:

False KivaThis Ancestral Puebloan or Anasazi structure in Canyonlands National Park, while round in shape, contains no evidence indicating it was an actual kiva, and hence the name. The time of construction and use appears to have been c.1050 AD to c.1300 AD.Quiet and Alone at False Kiva in Canyonlands National ParkContrary to what one might think, the site is not an Anasazi ruin, it is actually a Pueblo Indian ruin. The rangers at the visitor center told me that it was dated around 1350 A.D.Tidbits from Motion

Some observations from the show:

  • Host Greg Aiello doesn't reveal the location, but emphasizes that you can find it by asking or investigating.

  • Aiello uses the term "Anasazi," which is politically incorrect but still commonplace. The preferred term is "Ancestral Puebloan."

  • Aiello says photographers may have built up the structure to make it more photogenic, which would be lame if true.

  • Aiello doesn't offer much Indian lore, but does say the Anasazi eventually moved away. That's a refreshing change from the sources that say they "mysteriously disappeared." If the region was hit by drought, the most common theory, of course the people moved away. They didn't just shrivel up and die because they were too primitive to think of a solution.

  • False Kiva also provided the Astronomy Picture of the Day for September 29, 2008:

    For more on the Anasazi, see Indians in Ace in the Hole and 2010 Christmas Pix.

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