Solstice on the San Juan to raise funds for Chimney Rock interpretive programs

By Ernie O’Toole
Special to The SUN
For over 20 years, the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association (CRIA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and its more than 100 volunteers have shared the story of the Ancestral Puebloan people with thousands of visitors through tours and special programs at Chimney Rock National Monument.
Historic places like Chimney Rock reflect the past while enriching our future, but without public support, CRIA would be unable to provide the interpretive programs that keep Chimney Rock’s history alive.
In hopes of funding educational projects, volunteer recruitment/training and the interpretive programs that help keep Chimney Rock National Monument a local attraction, CRIA is holding a fundraising event, Solstice on the San Juan, in the amphitheater at the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) on June 22 at 6 p.m. This is located downtown by the river behind the county courthouse, at 80 S. 5th St. For two hours, we will present Native American flute and drum music and Native American storytelling.
Charles Martinez, a Pagosa native with Jicarilla and Navajo ancestry, will be playing his own handmade flutes. Andulia Davis from Dulce, a CRIA volunteer and Jicarilla Nation member, will be telling stories about her native culture, and Marlon Magdalena, a member of the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, will also be playing his flutes and drums and will also tell of his people’s history and culture. This will be an event well worth attending.
The cost is $25 for adults in advance and $30 at the gate. The cost is $5 for children 5 to 15, and children 5 and under are free. Advance tickets can be purchased at the Chamber of Commerce at the Visitor Center on Hot Springs Boulevard, at Choke Cherry Tree, 56 Talisman Drive, 8C, or visit our website, They can also be purchased at the entrance the day of the event.
Why support CRIA?
CRIA’s operational funding
CRIA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that runs the daily operations and interpretive programs at Chimney Rock National Monument in partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the San Juan National Forest. CRIA does not receive any funding from the government and relies on tour fees, donations, merchandise sales and grants for the daily operations and special programs at the monument.
CRIA’s education initiative
Since becoming a national monument in 2012, CRIA has seen a significant increase in the number of schools requesting tours, which are provided at no cost for the students and accompanying adults. This year, CRIA provided 20 free educational programs for over 550 children and accompanying adults from schools in Pagosa, Durango, Monte Vista and Silverton. A group of experienced educators, CRIA’s Education Initiative Committee has developed special projects and an outreach mobile classroom kit that provides an enhanced experience for these young people in the hope they will value sites such as Chimney Rock and preserve cultural heritage. With additional funding, it is the committee’s desire to develop an age-appropriate curriculum to send to schools to study independently the week prior to visiting the monument.
CRIA’s lecture series
CRIA hosts a free lecture series each year to offer the opportunity for the public and CRIA volunteers to gather and hear a speaker whose topic typically relates to southwest archaeology, archaeoastronomy and/or Chacoan culture. The lectures are free of charge and take place at 7 p.m., following a social hour at 6 p.m., at the EcoLuxe building located at The Springs Resort and Spa at 165 Hot Springs Blvd. in Pagosa Springs. CRIA absorbs the costs extended to these speakers.
Volunteer recruitment
CRIA must recruit new volunteers each year to meet increased demand in visitation and to replace volunteers who leave the area or can no longer volunteer. There are significant costs involved in recruiting, training and retaining volunteers annually. An extensive annual training, core curriculum and training manuals, and CPR/first aid certification, are among some of the costs CRIA absorbs to retain its volunteers. While there are paid, dedicated, part-time staff members, it’s the volunteers who interpret and maintain the site and do most of the tasks that make the monument work.
Interpretive programs
Life at Chimney Rock: Life at Chimney Rock is an annual family-friendly, two-day event at the monument that is free to the public. This festival provides visitors the opportunity to try their hand at interactive cultural activities, learn how the Ancient Puebloans lived and visit a Native American market. The visitation for this event doubled from the previous year to over 500 people, so more support is needed to continue to offer this special event free of charge. The costs for this program alone exceed $1,800 per year.
Archaeoastronomy programs: Three times monthly, visitors can either watch the full moon rise while listening to the soothing sounds of Charles Martinez playing the flute from the high mesa top, or attend one of our night sky programs where visitors have a chance to take a closer look at the wonders of the night sky through telescopes from the best vantage point in the Four Corners. Your support is needed to continue to bring in quality speakers in both astronomy and archaeoastronomy and to purchase additional telescopes to accommodate the increase in visitation.
Other interpretive programs: In addition, CRIA also has a Native American Stories at Sunset program where Native Americans tell stories about their cultures, customs and histories at sunset by the Great Kiva. We also have a Geology Tour where an experienced geologist explains the geology of Chimney Rock National Monument and its influence on the Ancestral Puebloans’ daily lives. CRIA also presents a Sunrise Photo Tour where visitors can watch the sun rise at Chimney Rock National Monument. With a 360-degree vantage point and the hush of early morning in the wilderness, the sunrise from the Great House is a marvelous experience for the eyes and the spirit, and an amazing opportunity for photography.
Additional reasons
In addition to providing valuable cultural, historical and educational programs to the Pagosa Springs area, Chimney Rock National Monument has a significant economic impact on the community. Since attaining monument status in 2012, Chimney Rock National Monument has seen an increase in visitorship of over 40 percent. These visitors, some of whom come exclusively to visit the monument, generally stay in local establishments, eat and shop in local restaurants and stores. It is estimated that these visitors account for an additional 27 local employment opportunities and contribute $1.7 million to a region which is heavily dependent upon tourism dollars.
So, on June 22, come on out to the GGP and enjoy the Native American music and stories while supporting a great cultural and educational organization.

This story was posted on June 17, 2019.