Tusayan Ruins at the Grand Canyon – An Ancient Civilization

by Maura Elko March. 04, 2017 1523 views

Tusayan Museum

The cool authentic looking building that was the museum. It was pretty small inside too.

Did you know there were ruins at the Grand Canyon?

I didn’t! Actually there are literally tons of archaeological sites in and around the canyon. In fact the little map brochure I got said there are 4,000! Most of them aren’t accessible at all however, so it’s nice that the Tusayan Ruins are there for people to easily see up close.

When we first arrived at the Grand Canyon, I opened up the map given to us at the ranger station to see what places we should check out during our stay. Just a few miles from the main visitor’s center at the South Rim on Desert View Drive was a spot marked as Tusayan Museum and Ruins. So we stopped to check it out.

The museum there was pretty small, and there’s much that even archaeologists just don’t know, but it did give a lot of insight into how the people, namely the Ancestral Puebloans, may have lived back then. How they made use of the land and the plants in this area was really interesting. Yucca plants were used for rope, sandals, and baskets, as the plant is very fibrous. They boiled pine needles for tea, which was a big source of Vitamin C, and they ate the juniper berries off the trees(I never knew those were edible!). They also set aside plots of land for gardening.

traditional clothing

Traditional Clothing, baskets, pottery, tools, jewelry were among the artifacts on display in the museum.

Outside of the museum it was just a short paved walk around the ruins which looked like low lying mud brick walls that were once buildings. There were plenty of signs that gave more information on the locations. Such as this round dwelling in the picture below, which is called a Kiva.

Tusayan Ruins path

The paved path that went around the ruins. Really easy and accessible to all, it doesn't go far.

tusayan ruins

Some low lying walls that were all that was left of the ruins.


This was a Kiva. A lot of ancestral people had one of these; it was said to be used for religious ceremonies and meetings.

In addition to the ruins, there’s also a lot of cool plants and wildlife in the area! Like these pretty purple and yellow flowers(unfortunately I don’t know their names), prickly pear and other types of cacti, and this Plateau Fence Lizard sunning himself on a rock.

cactus flowers

Prickly Pear Cactus on the left and some followers

yellow cactus

Another cool looking cactus. I don't know the name of this one however.

Plateau Fence Lizard

Plateau Fence Lizard

As we were leaving, we came across this gap in the trees, and there was a sign there as well explaining that those were the San Francisco Peaks in the distance….San Francisco? I thought we were in Arizona not CA? Well, turns out that in 1629 many years before San Francisco was even named, Spanish missionaries came and established a site near there in the name of St. Francis Assisi. Thus people living around there named the peaks after him.

One of the peaks, Humphrey’s Peak at 12,633 ft, or 3,851m, is the highest point in Arizona.

The San Francisco Peaks

The San Francisco Peaks

Join the conversation
There are 6 comments , add yours!
Ram Ya 3 years, 5 months ago

Very informative post and something unique from what we see every day from Grand Canyon.
Thanks for the photo story, Maura

3 years, 5 months ago Edited
Maura Elko Replied to Ram Ya 3 years, 5 months ago

You're welcome, glad you liked it!

3 years, 5 months ago Edited
Becky Brannon 3 years, 7 months ago

I was at the Grand Canyon many years ago, I do not remember the ruins. thanks for the info., I hope to go back sometime!

3 years, 7 months ago Edited
Maura Elko Replied to Becky Brannon 3 years, 7 months ago

You're welcome! It's fun to check out if you like history :)

3 years, 7 months ago Edited
Antonio Gil 3 years, 7 months ago

Interesting place

3 years, 7 months ago Edited
Maura Elko Replied to Antonio Gil 3 years, 7 months ago

Yeah it was. Gave you a good idea of how the ancient cultures lived in the land here.

3 years, 7 months ago Edited
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