River House Ruins, Bluff, Utah


Donna and I took another trip with Wild Expeditions (https://www.riversandruins.com), this time starting off in inflatable kayaks on the San Juan River, and then taking out at the Butler Wash Ruin. This is also called the River House.

The Butler Wash Ruin is a Pueblo ruin that was most likely built late in the Anasazi occupation of the area. Most archeologists suggest that it was built in the 1200s. The inhabitants likely farmed the wash bottom below and in the broad open lands further down the wash.

The ruins consist of storage and sleeping rooms, with the sleeping rooms generally to the front and storage to the back. Most of these room blocks were multi-stories with a lot of rooms in a rather small space. There are a lot of storage rooms compared to sleeping rooms which is not unusual in Pueblo III sites.

The ruins themselves are fascinating, but more fascinating are the petroglyphs in the area.

The paddling itself was pretty easy. Below is a picture of me and one of our guides, Kevin, under a monster wall. The scenery along the trip was quite spectacular.

In addition to the scenery, there were ancient Native American artifacts. We saw holes carved into the side of a mountain that were used as steps. It has been suggested that these were sometimes used by one tribe to entice another tribe to climb up so that they could be captured or killed.

There are also “modern” petroglyphs, carved way up on the side of a canyon wall when the river was much higher.


Finally, we got to the River House. Even from the river, the ruin is quite impressive.

But first, lunch provided by Wild Expeditions. As you can see, it was a pretty substantial lunch, and one that was quite welcome.

Below are our other two guides, Spencer and Ryan, setting up lunch. Note the Hummer. I will get back to that later.

Anyway, we walked about ½ mile to the River Houses where Spencer filled us in on the common understanding of the ruin. Like the ruins at Chaco Canyon, the living quarters were multi-storied.

Then we got to see the petroglyphs.

One interesting, and disturbing, feature of the petroglyphs were the images of people that have apparently been executed by being hung upside down and having their heads cut off. It is hard to see in the picture below, but you might be able to see scratches that seem to depict blood flowing out of the victims. Of course, when you use your imagination, you may also see an alien antenna and alien robot (caution Will Robinson). You could literally spend hours in front of this one small section of the petroglyph.

There is one section of the petroglyphs that have figures that I have not seen anywhere else, despite many searches on the internet. No idea what they represent.

Then it was time to head back, and that is where the Hummer came into play. Below are a few pictures of the “road” we took.


Anasazi beans are small, kidney-shaped, purple and white beans in the same family as pinto beans. They are used in Latin American and Southwestern cuisines, and have a mild, sweet flavor that pairs with a mealy texture. The beans cook much more quickly than regular beans, and they appear to have been a part of the human diet in the Americas for thousands of years. They are also marketed as New Mexico cave beans, Aztec beans, New Mexico appaloosas, and Jacob’s Cattle beans.

The story of Anasazi beans varies, depending on who is telling it. In popular mythology, the beans were uncovered by an anthropologist, who discovered a 1,500-year-old tightly sealed jar of them at a dig in New Mexico and at River House. Some of the beans germinated, and the new variety of bean entered cultivation again. Since most botanists agree that most beans are unable to germinate after approximately 50 years, it is more probable that the beans remained in constant cultivation in the Southwest, probably in Native American gardens, and that they were picked up by companies looking for new “boutique beans.”

If you are interested, the best place to buy them is on Amazon: