Cortez, an archaeological center for America, is the largest town in Montezuma County, the county seat, and the regional shopping center. Located at the foot of the Sleeping Ute Mountain and the Mesa Verde ridge, the town is also a crossroads for US 491 and 160 connecting the 4 states of the region. !
Crow Canyon Archeological Center, Cortez, CO, 970-565-8975, Day Programs Wednesday and Thursday for an all day archeology field trip (reservations required. $50 adult includes lunch). Crow Canyon Center is still doing active site excavation from its base on the north side of town.
Canyon Trails Ranch: Visit ancient ruins and learn the history of the Ancestral Puebloan people via horseback! Canyon Trails Ranch offers scenic Colorado backcountry horseback rides in spectacular McElmo Canyon. And end the day with a visit to the Guy Drew winery in McElmo.
Cortez Art Scene:
Rodeo is still a big attraction throughout the region. Don't miss the Ute Mountain Rodeo every June. Indian dances and cultural programs are offered six nights a week at the Cortez Cultural Center In the summer. Historic buildings in the downtown area are part of the Crossroads Culture Walk, an interesting way to discover the unique history of the area and learn how Cortez has been a trade center for many cultures. Thanks to historic donations of farm land, the town has an amazing array of parks. Sports play fields and picnic areas.
Cortez was Tsaya-toh to the Navajo, meaning "rock water," a reference probably to Mitchell Springs. Cortez was officially founded in 1886 with a new name and moved north to the present town site. Ranching, farming and a major trading center for Native Americans became the combined economic mainstay of the town.
Time passed -- and with the building of McPhee Lake, a different variety of crops became sustainable: the Utes became hi-tech farmers, and wine grapes moved into McElmo Canyon.