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Defiance House

Tiff Mapel

Well-Known Member
Good morning, Wordlings,

Today's recycled article is on Defiance House ruin in Forgotten Canyon. I've visited Defiance House many times over the years and at many different water levels. The pics I'm attaching are from 2012 when my daughter was 6. We had the place to ourselves mid-September, and a Ranger there to give a presentation on artifacts and history of Defiance House. Pretty cool place! Unfortunately, I do not have pics of the pictographs, so maybe someone can post those.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
~Tiff & Crew

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Defiance House

Published Spring 2004


A silent fortress rests peacefully in Powell country. It has withstood several centuries, wind and water, and even tourists. It is Defiance House, a restored ruin located in Forgotten Canyon. Defiant against time, defiant against the elements.

Perhaps the three warrior pictographs painted on the canyon wall above the ruin have protected Defiance House. Maybe it was because of its location and height off the canyon floor. For whatever reason, Defiance House still stands in a canyon that was nearly forgotten.

Sometime in 1921 when the U.S. Geological Survey prepared the topographical maps for Glen Canyon, one canyon was inadvertently omitted. It was around mile 106, and was shown on the map as a short, narrow chasm jutting into the Navajo Sandstone. It could hardly have been called a canyon, according to the map. In 1952, thirty-one years later, a trio of river runners discovered it was indeed a canyon. Beyond the narrow entrance blocked by ominous deep pools, a long canyon opened before them—nine miles of canyon, to be exact. Continuing on through the canyon, they happened upon the Defiance House ruin. To them, it looked like the inhabitants had abandoned it years ago: it was littered with broken sandstone and pottery shards. They didn’t see any evidence of any modern people being at the ruin since final abandonment, and felt they were the first to see it. The trio dubbed the canyon “Forgotten Canyon,” since it wasn’t listed on the government maps. They called Defiance House “Three Warrior Ruin.”

Defiance House was later named for the three warrior pictographs that grace the canyon wall above the ruin. The large white pictographs must have looked menacing to intruders of long ago. In 1959, seven years after the river runners observed the ruin, University of Utah Archaeologist Jesse Jennings coordinated the first documented survey of the Defiance House ruin. Today it is a popular site at Lake Powell, second only to Rainbow Bridge, 55 miles downstream. It is the most visited archaeological site at Lake Powell. Defiance House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, ensuring recognition and protection for years to come. The National Park Service has restored the ruins to resemble what they must have looked like, and to ensure people’s safety in getting up to the site. There’s an easy path, and informative signs to read on your way up.

Defiance House is a few miles up Forgotten Canyon high on the north wall. Ancestral Puebloans lived in Powell country from approximately 1250 to 1285 AD. It is surmised they came from the Mesa Verde area in southwestern Colorado, 100 miles east of Glen Canyon. An extended family or two lived at Defiance House for only a short while. The ruin is made up of several rooms, a kiva, and a couple granaries. No one knows why these people abandoned the canyons and their cliff dwellings, but many theories exist, such as: extended drought, warfare amongst tribes, and lack of trees for firewood.

Defiance House seems to be the best spot to have lived in all of Glen Canyon. During the warmer summer months, the high canyon walls shield the ruins from the relentless sun. During the colder winter months, the ruins receive near-direct sunlight, keeping it warmer. I wonder if the Ancient Ones knew this before they built there, or if they just got lucky? Defiance House sits high enough in the canyon wall that they could have spotted invaders quickly, and would have been better prepared to defend their dwelling. It also sits back far enough in its alcove so no water drips down upon it from the rim above. With all of these advantages of location, Defiance House continues to stand patiently—for over 700 years now.

One perfect fall day in October of 2003, a group of Powell enthusiasts visited Defiance House. In attendance were: John and Julie Hammond from Salt Lake City, Utah, owners of Sunrise Peak, a well-established company specializing in shared-ownership houseboats here at Lake Powell; Doug Hammond—John’s father—from Syracuse, New York; Jason and Allison Bishop from Bountiful, Utah; Frank and Tiffany Mapel from Durango, Colorado; and Dave Tate, publisher of Lake Powell Magazine.

The water level was down 97 feet from full pool at that time. We beached the boats amidst ghostly, gnarled cottonwood trees that rose from the water. It was a calm, cool morning as we set out on our hike to Defiance House; we couldn’t see it from where we had beached the boats. Julie had remarked that they were there a few weeks before, and the canyon floor had looked much different. One week prior to our visit, a flood had come down the canyon from heavy rains. Sand and silt were moved by the tons. Flood debris—sticks and grasses—was wrapped around dead cottonwood trees. A “no wake” buoy was high and dry and covered over in flood debris, stretched to the end of its long chain. We hiked in almost a mile before we saw Defiance House. When the water is at full pool, the water comes up to within 60 feet or so of the ruins, and continues past the ruin up the canyon for another mile or so. Boats will float lazily while people swim ashore to hike up and see the ruins. It was like that just two years ago. I can remember swimming directly over the visible rocks, which are now the top of a pinnacle rising from the canyon floor.

We had the canyon practically to ourselves, save the slice of ravens’ wings drifting on thermals, and the canyon wrens that pleasantly broke the silence. Jason sifted through the sand on the floor of the ruin, and found several small pieces of pottery. They were too small to have imagined what they used to be, but pottery nonetheless. As with any archaeological relic you may find, it’s imperative to leave it where you find it—it’s illegal to remove it. Also, this ruin as well as several others at Lake Powell have been restored and strengthened to withstand visitation. Unrestored ruins are dangerous and illegal to enter.

I paused on one of the restored walls at the edge of the cliff, and pondered what life must have been like for the Ancient Ones. They certainly had a great view. I wonder what they would have thought about having water-front property? Maybe they grew corn, squash, and beans in the fertile canyon floor. Maybe they watched helplessly as the seasonal floods wiped out their crops. Maybe they lacked water to give to their crops. We’ll never know the reason they left their amazing home. But we thank them that they left this legacy to us. To see and discover. To imagine what life was like for them.
 

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nzaugg

Well-Known Member
The first time I visited in 1993 or 1994, there was a courtesy dock located near the ruins. When we tried to visit in fall of 2013, there was an impassible mud flat and we had to abandon the attempt. We later visited in 2015 when water levels where a bit better, but required a swim across the canyon to get to the side you could hike from, which I think the kids felt was a great adventure. The presence of so many dead trees has really discouraged us from trying to get back since then. I really love to see this amazing history as we travel the lake though and it really does get people thinking about some deep topics as they contemplate survival of a "primitive" people in the canyon without air conditioning, running water, electricity, solar panels, video games, etc. Thanks for the fun article!
 

Steve Moore

Well-Known Member
Good morning, Wordlings,

Today's recycled article is on Defiance House ruin in Forgotten Canyon. I've visited Defiance House many times over the years and at many different water levels. The pics I'm attaching are from 2012 when my daughter was 6. We had the place to ourselves mid-September, and a Ranger there to give a presentation on artifacts and history of Defiance House. Pretty cool place! Unfortunately, I do not have pics of the pictographs, so maybe someone can post those.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
~Tiff & Crew

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Defiance House

Published Spring 2004


A silent fortress rests peacefully in Powell country. It has withstood several centuries, wind and water, and even tourists. It is Defiance House, a restored ruin located in Forgotten Canyon. Defiant against time, defiant against the elements.

Perhaps the three warrior pictographs painted on the canyon wall above the ruin have protected Defiance House. Maybe it was because of its location and height off the canyon floor. For whatever reason, Defiance House still stands in a canyon that was nearly forgotten.

Sometime in 1921 when the U.S. Geological Survey prepared the topographical maps for Glen Canyon, one canyon was inadvertently omitted. It was around mile 106, and was shown on the map as a short, narrow chasm jutting into the Navajo Sandstone. It could hardly have been called a canyon, according to the map. In 1952, thirty-one years later, a trio of river runners discovered it was indeed a canyon. Beyond the narrow entrance blocked by ominous deep pools, a long canyon opened before them—nine miles of canyon, to be exact. Continuing on through the canyon, they happened upon the Defiance House ruin. To them, it looked like the inhabitants had abandoned it years ago: it was littered with broken sandstone and pottery shards. They didn’t see any evidence of any modern people being at the ruin since final abandonment, and felt they were the first to see it. The trio dubbed the canyon “Forgotten Canyon,” since it wasn’t listed on the government maps. They called Defiance House “Three Warrior Ruin.”

Defiance House was later named for the three warrior pictographs that grace the canyon wall above the ruin. The large white pictographs must have looked menacing to intruders of long ago. In 1959, seven years after the river runners observed the ruin, University of Utah Archaeologist Jesse Jennings coordinated the first documented survey of the Defiance House ruin. Today it is a popular site at Lake Powell, second only to Rainbow Bridge, 55 miles downstream. It is the most visited archaeological site at Lake Powell. Defiance House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, ensuring recognition and protection for years to come. The National Park Service has restored the ruins to resemble what they must have looked like, and to ensure people’s safety in getting up to the site. There’s an easy path, and informative signs to read on your way up.

Defiance House is a few miles up Forgotten Canyon high on the north wall. Ancestral Puebloans lived in Powell country from approximately 1250 to 1285 AD. It is surmised they came from the Mesa Verde area in southwestern Colorado, 100 miles east of Glen Canyon. An extended family or two lived at Defiance House for only a short while. The ruin is made up of several rooms, a kiva, and a couple granaries. No one knows why these people abandoned the canyons and their cliff dwellings, but many theories exist, such as: extended drought, warfare amongst tribes, and lack of trees for firewood.

Defiance House seems to be the best spot to have lived in all of Glen Canyon. During the warmer summer months, the high canyon walls shield the ruins from the relentless sun. During the colder winter months, the ruins receive near-direct sunlight, keeping it warmer. I wonder if the Ancient Ones knew this before they built there, or if they just got lucky? Defiance House sits high enough in the canyon wall that they could have spotted invaders quickly, and would have been better prepared to defend their dwelling. It also sits back far enough in its alcove so no water drips down upon it from the rim above. With all of these advantages of location, Defiance House continues to stand patiently—for over 700 years now.

One perfect fall day in October of 2003, a group of Powell enthusiasts visited Defiance House. In attendance were: John and Julie Hammond from Salt Lake City, Utah, owners of Sunrise Peak, a well-established company specializing in shared-ownership houseboats here at Lake Powell; Doug Hammond—John’s father—from Syracuse, New York; Jason and Allison Bishop from Bountiful, Utah; Frank and Tiffany Mapel from Durango, Colorado; and Dave Tate, publisher of Lake Powell Magazine.

The water level was down 97 feet from full pool at that time. We beached the boats amidst ghostly, gnarled cottonwood trees that rose from the water. It was a calm, cool morning as we set out on our hike to Defiance House; we couldn’t see it from where we had beached the boats. Julie had remarked that they were there a few weeks before, and the canyon floor had looked much different. One week prior to our visit, a flood had come down the canyon from heavy rains. Sand and silt were moved by the tons. Flood debris—sticks and grasses—was wrapped around dead cottonwood trees. A “no wake” buoy was high and dry and covered over in flood debris, stretched to the end of its long chain. We hiked in almost a mile before we saw Defiance House. When the water is at full pool, the water comes up to within 60 feet or so of the ruins, and continues past the ruin up the canyon for another mile or so. Boats will float lazily while people swim ashore to hike up and see the ruins. It was like that just two years ago. I can remember swimming directly over the visible rocks, which are now the top of a pinnacle rising from the canyon floor.

We had the canyon practically to ourselves, save the slice of ravens’ wings drifting on thermals, and the canyon wrens that pleasantly broke the silence. Jason sifted through the sand on the floor of the ruin, and found several small pieces of pottery. They were too small to have imagined what they used to be, but pottery nonetheless. As with any archaeological relic you may find, it’s imperative to leave it where you find it—it’s illegal to remove it. Also, this ruin as well as several others at Lake Powell have been restored and strengthened to withstand visitation. Unrestored ruins are dangerous and illegal to enter.

I paused on one of the restored walls at the edge of the cliff, and pondered what life must have been like for the Ancient Ones. They certainly had a great view. I wonder what they would have thought about having water-front property? Maybe they grew corn, squash, and beans in the fertile canyon floor. Maybe they watched helplessly as the seasonal floods wiped out their crops. Maybe they lacked water to give to their crops. We’ll never know the reason they left their amazing home. But we thank them that they left this legacy to us. To see and discover. To imagine what life was like for them.
I believe that’s Terry Bell
 
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