Exploring the mysteries of Kannah Creek

Humans have depended on Kannah Creek for hundreds if not thousands of years, its water running off the top of Grand Mesa toward the Gunnison River. The full depth of the human experience along Kannah Creek is now being scratched out.

The Western Investigations Team is looking into the mystery of human life along the creek.

“Kannah Creek is probably one of the most unique areas of western Colorado,” said Dave Bailey, director of the Western Investigations Team.

It seems to have been a focus of activity from prehistoric peoples to the Utes to the Spanish to the settlers who raised cattle and crops along its banks.

The investigations team, a joint effort of the Museum of Western Colorado and Mesa State College, recently flagged out a series of manmade structures in the basin to help them see whether several discoveries over the past four years were connected and, if so, how.

A low rock wall 145 feet long that climbs a hill along the creek might have been built as a game trap, archaeologist Phil Born said. The wall intersects three game trails, lending credence to the idea that it might have been used for the purpose of controlling and trapping animals by early people.

Another structure at the top of the hill seems recognizable on some level. The round structure made of native rock is 2.25 meters in diameter, and it has a pit in the center.

It could have been built as an eagle trap, a protected vantage point 300 feet above the basin or a sanctuary in which an American Indian could seek a vision.

In the case of trapping an eagle, a young man would hide under loose cover with some bait, possibly a dead rabbit, above. When the eagle landed, the man underneath would have the unenviable job of grabbing it by the talons, Born said.

“It took a real macho man to do it,” he said.

The pit was originally found by Robin Dujay, wife of Rick Dujay, the team’s scientific coordinator, as she and a friend were hiking. Team members photographed the sites and took Global Positioning System readings, all of which Bailey said will be used in the museum’s “Distant Cities in the Mist” exhibit, which will open later this year.


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