Kinishba Ruins Through The Lens

My summer home in the White Mountains of northeastern Arizona eventually became my primary residence to allow for my family and I to travel more frequently.

Our Pinetop neighborhood is on the cusp of the Whiteriver Apache Indian Reservation near the Kinishba Ruins which are at a lower elevation of 5,000 feet just outside Fort Apache.

The ruins exhibit an expansive 600-room archaeological site governed by the White Mountain Apache Tribe of the nearby Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The site demonstrates a combination of indigenous Mogollon and Anasazi cultural traits and is considered ancestral to the Hopi and Zuni cultures.

From 1931 to 1940, University of Arizona archaeology students excavated and restored Kinishba, meaning “brown house.”

Upon arrival, a sign riddled with bullet holes frightened me into purchasing a permit before viewing the ruins, but when we arrived at White Mountain Apache Culture Center and Museum where I was supposed to obtain the permit, it was closed.

I jammed $5 bucks into an abandon-looking payment box and drove back the dirt road leading to the Kinishba deprived of an information pamphlet.

The main structure sprawled across the desert mountain canvas and can be seen immediately at the entrance. The pueblo design displays windows that frame the horizon and fallen wooden support  beams lean up against sacred rock walls casting liner shadows.

Small decorated fragments of pottery hide amongst the ruin wreckage and horses roam free in wide open spaces.

Just below the ruins rests a dried up canal carving of the Little Colorado River that once billowed with water.

Exploring the parched riverbed led me to a mass of bees swarming over a shallow puddle that scared me back up the hill.

Soda cans from what apperared to be from the 1970’s could be seen scattered around the grounds, sun bleached and hiding under brush.

A second structure at the ruin site looks like an abandon house, hence the two fireplaces, built from the ruin pieces and is actually a pueblo-style museum and visitor’s center built by University of Arizona students but never opened.

In 1964, Kinishba became a National Historic Landmark but still received inadequate restoration.

As an Arizona native, I consider these ruins to be a sacred state treasure of cultural importance. It is ashame the site isn’t more preserved.

Just up the dirt road from Kinishba sits an old indian graveyard beneath a layered mesa with a cave carved into it and what Apache’s consider to be holy indian land.


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