Cuarenta Casas

Forty House

Useful Information

Location: Huapoca Canyon, Mexico.
At the road between El Largo and Ciudad Madera, at Arturo Gámiz at kilometer 42.5, a sort of hamlet or farmstay. Parking lot Zona Arqueológica 40 Casas 1.2 km off the road. 1 km 15 minutes hike to the site.
(29.553610, -108.169137)
Open: All year Tue-Sun 10-16.
Cueva de las Ventanas: Summer Tue-Sun 9, 15.
Winter Tue-Sun 9, 14.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyRiver Cave SubterraneaCave House
Light: not necessary, bring torch
Guided tours: self guided.
Cueva de las Ventanas: L=3.6 km, D=2 h.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Curtis F. Schaafsma, Carroll L. Riley (1999) The Casas Grandes World University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, ISBN 0-87480-595-3
Address: INAH Chihuahua Center, Tel: +52-1-614-4-10-39-48, Tel: +52-1-614-4-10-87-33. E-mail:
INAH, Hamburgo 135, Colonia Juárez, Alcaldía Cuauhtémoc, Ciudad de México, CP 06600, Tel: +52-4166-0780.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1060-1205 pueblos built.
16th century description by the explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.
1892 first photographs and technical descriptions by the Norwegian explorer Carl Lumholtz and Mr. Taylor.
1980 Cueva de las Ventanas (Windows Cave) excavated.


Cuarenta Casas is an archaeological zone in the Huapoca Canyon. There are a series of caves, all located in the cliffs of El Garabato river. Construction of the adobe houses is attributed to the Mogollon culture. There are five different caves which may be visited.

Cuarenta Casas (Forty Houses) was named after a description by the 16th century Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. He wrote that they forged their way inland and found forty houses. However, it is not sure that there really were exactly 40 houses, it was probably an estimate, miscounted or just exaggeration. Or, as some mentioned, 40 was just used as a synonym for many. Or he was writing about a different place which has not yet been discovered. Today there are the remains of fewer houses than 40, despite the name.

In 1892 the Norwegian explorer Carl Lumholtz explored this region and made photographs and technical descriptions. But to this site he sent Mr. Taylor, a civil engineer and photographer, to record the site, he did not visit it personally. Nevertheless, he included the site in his book The Unknown Mexico based on the field notes of Mr. Taylor.

The Forty Houses settlement was an important stopover between the ancient city of Paquimé anf the coastal regions of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California. The inhabitants cultivated corn, squash and legumes, collected cassava seeds, wild acorns and maguey, hunted deer, rabbits, rodents, and different types of birds. Feathers of the birds were used for ornamental and exchange purposes. Evidence for all this was excavated by Dr. Arturo Guevara Sánchez. Textiles like petates, baskets, gourds, and sandals made of agave, yucca and dasylirion were also found, which is quite exceptional.

The visit to the site requires some preparation. Most important are hat, sun protection and enough water, some food, appropriate clothes, good walking shoes. Long sleeves and long trousers are strongly recommended, despite the temperature. Bring a torch as there is no light, there are wooden tracks and some parts are roped off. There are guided tours to the Cueva de las Ventanas, which require some walking, and due to high temperature may be strenuous.