The Abiquiu Dome at Los Silvestres is the seasonal studio/gallery of metal design artist Connie B Burkhart since 2016. Connie also uses the dome as a base to lead groups on hikes and adventures in geology, history and archaeological site visits. The dome features a unique location as it sits on one and a quarter acres on the edge of Red Wash Canyon, a destination trail for geology buffs and an entry point to Copper Canyon and the edge of the Colorado Plateau.
The dome is an early 6th century A.D. architectural wonder first developed by the Byzantines using a process the incorporates pendentives to convert a square adobe building into a semi-circular dome. Constructed in 2006, this structure was completed in 10 days by students and friends of the Arches, Domes & Vaults class at Northern New Mexico College in El Rito, NM,under the direction of Professor Quentin Wilson.
The Dome stands on an exceptional concrete foundation of two and a half feet deep and two feet thick with a reinforcement basket of nine rebars each three quarter inches thick.
The height of the Dome is 16’.9” and it’s walls are 14 inches. The domed roof is 7 inches thick and has a ‘keystone’ of apricot hardwood which also holds a grand candle chandelier.
There are amazing stories and history that occurred in the Abiquiu area. There are many artifacts, ruins, ancient rock art, rock structures and adobe ruins that speak to other times when Ice Age hunters, early hunter gatherers and later pueblo clans migrated along the Rio Grande tributaries. The Chama river canyon above Abiquiu was often the trail through which the clans traveled to settle the many pueblos located throughout New Mexico. If you hike in the Abiquiu area you will most likely find an artifact like a stone flake from the abundant obsidian or chert in the area or a piece of ancient pottery as they are all plentiful in this area. Also, the bones of ice age animals have been found near Abiquiu lake, along with stone tools from the same period.
With the arrival of the Spanish in 1598 a new era in the southwest was born. New Mexico was home to the Pueblo people as well as other nomadic tribes coming in from the north. The Abiquiu area was in constant turmoil from clans and tribes entering the valuable hunting areas along the river drainages and high country to the west and north. This land where the dome now stands saw many travelers through out history.
The Domínguez–Escalante expedition was a Spanish journey of exploration conducted in 1776 by two Franciscan priests, Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, to find an overland route from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to their Roman Catholic mission in Monterey, on the coast of modern day central California. The expedition left for the wilderness after mass at Santa Rosa de Lima church departing the Pueblo of Abiquiu heading west through the Chama River canyon on what would be known as The Old Spanish Trail. Later this ‘jumping off point’ was used in the 1830’s for trade by mule, foot and horses only. There were many variations of the trial as it wound it’s way through canyons, mountains and deserts to the final destination at Olivera Street in Los Angeles, CA . Some families of Abiquiu also used the trial to immigrate to California. The Chavez family settled in what is now the home of Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine.
The area of Abiquiu where the dome is located is known as Los Silvestres, meaning ‘the place of the wild ones’. It was settled in the mid 1730’s as a buffer between the
Pueblo of Abiquiu and the wild lands of the Piedra Lumbre, west of the Chama River canyon at the edge of the Colorado Plateau. At that time an acequia, or irrigation ditch, was constructed to channel the life giving water of the Chama river to crops along the river bottoms. This acequia is still in use today and is a vital part of the farming and ranching legacy of the the valley.
RED WASH CANYON - Carson Natl. forest hike. A geologists paradise at the edge of the Colorado Platea. Take the access road on the other side of the HWY just down from the dome to the north. Park and follow the arroyo up, diverting left up and over two cliff features, or pour offs, on the way back to Copper Canyon. Some drop off exposures occurs after the first ‘up and over’.
PLAZA BLANCA - hike info to come
BODES GENERAL STORE - Food, supplies, bathrooms - all you need plus the best green chili cheeseburgers around!
GHOST RANCH ~ 15 miles north. Hiking, tours, workshops, dining hall and much more.
RUINS of SANTA ROSA de LIMA church between mile maker 210 and the Abiquiu Inn on the north side of the HWY.
POSHUOUINGE RUINS TRAIL ~ Overlook this archaeological site that includes a large pueblo with over 700 ground-floor rooms surrounding two large plazas and a large kiva. This steep, scenic half-mile ruin trail features two vista areas and interpretive signs with incredible views of the Chama River Valley. Parking on the south side of HWY 84 across from Cafe Sierra Negra around mile marker 209.
Was the dome ever a mosque? No, it was originally built as the studio for Lori Faye Bock.
Is it OK to photograph from the gate? Yes! Feel free to enjoy from the gate. If the dome is open, stop by to see the metal designs of the owner, Connie B Burkhart and get a tour of the inside of the dome. Connie is always happy to point out the features and geology of the land as seen from the dome. Just ask her about the rocks, history or her workshops she lead Ghost Ranch.