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Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Large circular depression outlined by a stone wall. The bottom is flat and grassy, and has a collection of rectangular stone foundations and smaller circles of stone. A great sandstone cliff towers in the background, and beneath the cliff are other stone foundations that are larger and higher.
The Great Kiva of Chetro Ketl
Location: San Juan County and McKinley County, New Mexico, USA
Coordinates: 36°03′30″N 107°57′32″W / 36.058333°N 107.958889°W / 36.058333; -107.958889Coordinates: 36°03′30″N 107°57′32″W / 36.058333°N 107.958889°W / 36.058333; -107.958889
Area: 33,977.8 acres (13,750.3 ha)
Visitation: 45,539 (2005)
Governing body: National Park Service
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Official name: Chaco Culture
Type: Cultural
Criteria: iii
Designated: 1987 (11th session)
Reference #: 353
State Party:  United States
Region: Europe and North America
U.S. National Register of Historic Places
Type: U.S. historic district
Designated: October 15, 1966
Reference #: 66000895[1]
Former U.S. National Monument
Designated: March 11, 1907
Delisted: December 19, 1980
Designated by: President Theodore Roosevelt
U.S. National Historical Park
Designated: December 19, 1980
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is located in New Mexico
Location of Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a United States national historical park hosting the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest. The park is located in northwestern New Mexico, between Albuquerque and Farmington, in a remote canyon cut by the Chaco Wash. Containing the most sweeping collection of ancient ruins north of Mexico, the park preserves one of the United States' most unique cultural and historic areas.[2]

Between AD 900 and 1150, Chaco Canyon was a major center of culture for the Ancient Pueblo Peoples.α[›] Chacoans quarried sandstone blocks and hauled timber from great distances, assembling 15 major complexes which remained the largest buildings in North America until the 19th century.[2][3] Evidence of archaeoastronomy at Chaco has been proposed, with the Sun Dagger petroglyph at Fajada Butte a popular example. Many Chacoan buildings may have been aligned to capture the solar and lunar cycles,[4] requiring generations of astronomical observations and centuries of skillfully coordinated construction.[5] Climate change is thought to have led to the emigration of Chacoans and the eventual abandonment of the canyon, beginning with a 50-year drought in 1130.[6]

Composing a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the arid and sparsely populated Four Corners region, the Chacoan cultural sites are fragile; fears of erosion caused by tourists have led to the closure of Fajada Butte to the public. The sites are considered sacred ancestral homelands by the Hopi and Pueblo people, who maintain oral accounts of their historical migration from Chaco and their spiritual relationship to the land.[7][8] Though park preservation efforts can conflict with native religious beliefs, tribal representatives work closely with the National Park Service to share their knowledge and respect the heritage of the Chacoan culture.[7]



Chaco Canyon lies within the San Juan Basin, atop the vast Colorado Plateau, surrounded by the Chuska Mountains in the west, the San Juan Mountains to the north, and the San Pedro Mountains in the east. Ancient Chacoans drew upon dense forests of oak, piñon, ponderosa pine, and juniper to obtain timber and other resources. The canyon itself, located within lowlands circumscribed by dune fields, ridges, and mountains, runs in a roughly northwest-to-southeast direction and is rimmed by flat massifs known as mesas. Large gaps between the southwestern cliff faces—side canyons known as rincons—were critical in funneling rain-bearing storms into the canyon and boosting local precipitation levels.[9] The principal Chacoan complexes, such as Pueblo Bonito, Nuevo Alto, and Kin Kletso, have elevations of 6,200 to 6,440 feet (1,890 to 1,960 m).

Dark, rolling storm clouds lower over a desert landscape; a butte stands in the near distance, left of center.
Summer thunderstorms over Fajada Butte and the Fajada Gap, near the southwestern rim of Chaco Canyon

The alluvial canyon floor slopes downward to the northeast at a gentle grade of 30 feet (9.1 m) per mile (6 meters per kilometer); it is bisected by the Chaco Wash, an arroyo that rarely bears water. Of the canyon's aquifers, the largest are located at a depth that precluded ancient Chacoans from drawing groundwater: only several smaller, shallower sources supported the small springs that sustained them.[10] Aside from occasional storm runoff coursing through arroyos, significant surface water is virtually non-existent.


After the Pangaean supercontinent sundered during the Cretaceous period, the region became part of a shifting transition zone between a shallow inland sea—the Western Interior Seaway—and a band of plains and low hills to the west. A sandy and swampy coastline oscillated east and west, alternately submerging and uncovering the area atop the present Colorado Plateau that Chaco Canyon now occupies.[11]

As the Chaco Wash flowed across the upper strata of what is now the 400-foot (120 m) Chacra Mesa, it cut into it, gouging out a broad canyon over the course of millions of years. The mesa comprises sandstone and shale formations dating from the Late Cretaceous,[12] which are of the Mesa Verde formation.[11] The canyon bottomlands were further eroded, exposing Menefee Shale bedrock; this was subsequently buried under roughly 125 feet (38 m) of sediment. The canyon and mesa lie within the "Chaco Core", distinct from the wider Chaco Plateau, the latter a flat region of grassland with infrequent stands of trees. Because the Continental Divide is only 15.5 miles (25 km) east of the canyon, geological characteristics and different patterns of drainage differentiate these two regions both from each other and from the nearby Chaco Slope, the Gobernador Slope, and the Chuska Valley.[13]


An arid region of high xeric scrubland and desert steppe, the canyon and wider basin average 8 inches (200 mm) of rainfall annually; the park averages 9.1 inches (230 mm). Chaco Canyon lies on the leeward side of extensive mountain ranges to the south and west, resulting in a rainshadow effect fostering the prevailing lack of moisture in the region.[14] Four distinct seasons define the region, with rainfall most likely between July and September; May and June are the driest months. Orographic precipitation, resulting from moisture wrung out of storm systems ascending mountain ranges around Chaco Canyon, is responsible for most precipitation in both summer and winter; rainfall increases with higher elevation.[12] Occasional abnormal northward excursions of the intertropical convergence zone may boost precipitation in some years.

Rocky desert landscape blanketed in snow, shown in near-twilight. Two massifs, several miles in the distance, are snow-covered.
Fajada Butte: Chaco averages three or four snowstorms a winter

Chaco endures remarkable climatic extremes: temperatures range between −38 to 102 °F (-39 to 39 °C),[15] and temperatures may swing 60 °F (33 °C) in one day.[7] The region averages less than 150 frost-free days per year, and the local climate swings wildly from years of plentiful rainfall to prolonged drought.[16] The heavy influence of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation contributes to the canyon's fickle climate.[15]

Flora and fauna

Chacoan flora typifies that of North American high deserts: sagebrush and several species of cactus are interspersed with dry scrub forests of piñon and juniper, the latter primarily on mesa tops. The canyon is far drier than other parts of New Mexico located at similar latitudes and elevations, and it lacks the temperate coniferous forests plentiful to the east. The prevailing sparseness of plants and wildlife was echoed in ancient times, when overpopulation, expanding cultivation, overhunting, habitat destruction, and drought may have led the Chacoans to strip the canyon of wild plants and game.[17] As such, even during wet periods, the canyon was able to sustain only 2,000 people.[18]

The canyon's most notable mammalian species include the ubiquitous coyote (Canis latrans); mule deer, elk, and pronghorn also live within the canyon, though they are rarely encountered by visitors. Important smaller carnivores include the bobcats, badgers, foxes, and two species of skunk. The park hosts abundant populations of rodents, including several prairie dog towns. Small colonies of bats, are present during the summer. The local shortage of water means that relatively few bird species are present; these include roadrunners, large hawks (such as Cooper's Hawks and American Kestrels), owls, vultures, and ravens, though they are less abundant in the canyon than in the wetter mountain ranges to the east. Sizeable populations of smaller birds, including warblers, sparrows, and house finches, are also common. Three species of hummingbirds are present, including the tiny, but highly pugnacious, Rufous Hummingbird; they compete intensely with the more mild-tempered Black-chinned Hummingbirds for breeding habitat in shrubs or trees located near water. Western (prairie) rattlesnakes are occasionally seen in the backcountry, though various lizards and skinks are far more abundant.



Ancestral Puebloans

A map of the American Southwest and the northwest of Mexico showing modern political boundaries. Overlaid over them are three colored and labeled territories: "Anasazi", "Hohokam", and "Mogollón". Anasazi land is colored beige and is shown ranging across northeastern Arizona, the northern half of New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, and southeastern Utah. Hohokam lands (shaded yellow) are only about a fourth as extensive and lie to the southwest, centered over south-central Arizona. Mogollón territory (shaded green) is as large as "Anasazi" and lie to the south and southeast of the latter.
     Anasazi sites in the Southwest

The first people in the San Juan Basin were hunter-gatherers: the Archaic. These small bands descended from nomadic Clovis big-game hunters who arrived in the Southwest around 10,000 BC.[19] By 900 BC, the Archaic lived at Atlatl Cave and like sites.[20] They left little evidence of their presence in Chaco Canyon. By AD 490, their descendants, the Basketmakers, farmed lands around Shabik'eshchee Village and other pithouse settlements at Chaco.

A small population of Basketmakers remained in the Chaco Canyon area. The broad arc of their cultural elaboration culminated around 800, when they were building crescent-shaped stone complexes, each comprising four to five residential suites abutting subterranean kivas,[21] large enclosed areas reserved for rites. Such structures characterize the Early Pueblo People. By 850, the Ancient Pueblo population—the "Anasazi", from a Ute term adopted by the Navajo denoting the "ancient ones" or "enemy ancestors"—had rapidly expanded: groups resided in larger, denser pueblos. Strong evidence attests to a canyon-wide turquoise processing and trading industry dating from the 10th century. Around then, the first section of Pueblo Bonito was built: a curved row of 50 rooms near its present north wall.[22][23]

Daytime view looking down on a desert valley: in the near distance, a large semi-circular set of tumbled-down and ruined walls, greyish-yellowish brown in color. The far side of the ruins is a straight line, running left-right, roughly parallel to a line of cliffs in the far distance.
Pueblo Bonito, largest of the Great Houses, abuts the foot of Chaco Canyon's northern rim

The cohesive Chacoan system began unravelling around 1140, perhaps triggered by an extreme 50-year drought that began in 1130;[24] chronic climatic instability, including a series of severe droughts, again struck the region between 1250 and 1450.[25] Other factors included water management patterns (leading to arroyo cutting) and deforestation.[26][27][28] For instance, timber for construction was imported from outlying mountain ranges, such as the Chuska Mountains over 50 miles (80 km) to the west.[29] Outlying communities began to disappear and, by the end of the century, the buildings in the central canyon had been carefully sealed and abandoned.

Some scholars suggest that violence and warfare, perhaps involving cannibalism, impelled the evacuations. Hints of such include dismembered bodies—dating from Chacoan times—found at two sites within the central canyon.[30] Yet Chacoan complexes showed little evidence of being defended or defensively sited high on cliff faces or atop mesas, and only several minor sites at Chaco evidence the large-scale burning that would suggest enemy raids.[31] Archaeological and cultural evidence leads scientists to believe people from this region migrated south, east, and west into the valleys and drainages of the Little Colorado River, the Rio Puerco, and the Rio Grande.[32]

Athabaskan succession

Numic-speaking peoples, such as the Ute and Shoshone, were present on the Colorado Plateau beginning in the 12th century. Nomadic Southern Athabaskan speaking peoples, such as the Apache and Navajo, succeeded the Pueblo people in this region by the 15th century; in the process, they acquired Chacoan customs and agricultural skills.[32][33] Ute tribal groups also frequented the region, primarily during hunting and raiding expeditions. The modern Navajo Nation lies west of Chaco Canyon, and many Navajo (more appropriately known as the Diné) live in surrounding areas. The arrival of the Spanish in the 17th century inaugurated an era of subjugation and rebellion, with the Chaco Canyon area absorbing Puebloan and Navajo refugees fleeing Spanish rule. In succession, as first Mexico, then the U.S., gained sovereignty over the canyon, military campaigns were launched against the region's remaining inhabitants.[34]

Excavation and protection

Large square map of northwestern New Mexico and neighboring parts of, clockwise from left, western Arizona, southeastern Utah, and southwestern Colorado. The map region has a green and blocky rectangular-crescent area at its center labeled "Chaco Culture National Historical Park". Radiating from the green region are seven segmented gold lines: "[p]rehistoric roads", each several dozen kilometers in length when measured according to the map scale factor. Roughly seventy red dots mark the location of "Great House[s]"; they are widely spread across the map, many of them far from the green area, near the extremes of the map, more than one hundred kilometers from the green area. Two proceed roughly south, one southwest, one northwest, one straight north, and the last to the southeast. Yellow dots mark the location of modern settlements: "Shiprock", "Cortez", "Farmington", and "Aztec" to the northwest and north; "Nageezi", "Cuba", and "Pueblo Pintado" to the northeast and east; "Grants", "Crownpoint", and "Gallup" to the south and southwest. They are connected by a network of gray lines marking various interstate and state highways. A fan of thin blue lines along the northern margins of the map depict the San Juan River and its communicants.
Prehistoric roads and Great Houses in the San Juan Basin, superimposed on a map showing modern roads and settlements.

The trader Josiah Gregg was the first to write about the ruins of Chaco Canyon, referring in 1832 to Pueblo Bonito as "built of fine-grit sandstone". In 1849, a U.S. Army detachment passed through and surveyed the ruins.[35] The canyon was so remote, however, that it was scarcely visited over the next 50 years. After brief reconnaissance work by Smithsonian scholars in the 1870s, formal archaeological work began in 1896 when a party from the American Museum of Natural History—the Hyde Exploring Expedition—began excavating Pueblo Bonito. Spending five summers in the region, they sent over 60,000 artifacts back to New York and operated a series of trading posts.[36]

In 1901 Richard Wetherill, who had worked for the Hyde expedition, claimed a homestead of 161 acres (65 ha) that included Pueblo Bonito, Pueblo del Arroyo, and Chetro Ketl.[37][38] While investigating Wetherill's land claim, federal land agent Samuel J. Holsinger detailed the physical setting of the canyon and the sites, noted prehistoric road segments and stairways above Chetro Ketl, and documented prehistoric dams and irrigation systems.[39][40] His report, which went unpublished, urged the creation of a national park to safeguard Chacoan sites. The next year, Edgar Lee Hewett, president of New Mexico Normal University (later renamed New Mexico Highlands University), mapped many Chacoan sites. Hewett and others helped enact the Federal Antiquities Act of 1906, the first U.S. law to protect relics; it was, in effect, a direct consequence of Wetherill's controversial activities at Chaco.[41] The Act also authorized the President to found national monuments: on March 11, 1907, Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Chaco Canyon National Monument. Wetherill relinquished his claims.[7]

Cliff-side set of ruined walls in daytime. In front of a cliff running diagonally from near left to middle right, rectangular slabs of stone, each somewhat smaller than a common brick, are stacked to compose a wall. Walls are seen delimiting several smallish rectangular "rooms". In the background at middle-right, a set of stone steps is seen leading up from the walls to the top of the cliff.
Hungo Pavi, near the center of Chaco Canyon. A staircase leads out of the complex.

In 1949, the University of New Mexico deeded over adjoining lands to form an expanded Chaco Canyon National Monument. In return, the university maintained scientific research rights to the area. By 1959, the National Park Service had constructed a park visitor center, staff housing, and campgrounds. As a historic property of the National Park Service, the National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. In 1971, researchers Robert Lister and James Judge established the Chaco Center, a division for cultural research that functioned as a joint project between the University of New Mexico and the National Park Service. A number of multi-disciplinary research projects, archaeological surveys, and limited excavations began during this time. The Chaco Center extensively surveyed the Chacoan roads, well-constructed and heavily built thoroughfares radiating from the central canyon.[42] The results from such research conducted at Pueblo Alto and other sites dramatically altered accepted academic interpretations of both the Chacoan culture and the Four Corners region of the American Southwest.

The richness of the cultural remains at park sites led to the expansion of the small National Monument into the Chaco Culture National Historical Park on December 19, 1980, when an additional 13,000 acres (5,300 ha) were added to the protected area. In 1987, the park was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. To safeguard Chacoan sites on adjacent Bureau of Land Management and Navajo Nation lands, the Park Service developed the multi-agency Chaco Culture Archaeological Protection Site program. These initiatives have detailed the presence of more than 2,400 archeological sites within the current park's boundaries; only a small percentage of these have been excavated.[42][43]


A large green area representing Chaco Culture National Historical Park's boundaries sits in the middle of a white field. The green area is roughly rectangular with one smaller square-like and one triangular appendage abutting it at bottom-left and bottom-right, respectively. Fifteen small red circles represent the location of important Chacoan sites; they are focused on a line running from top-left (northwest) to bottom-right (southeast). A dashed blue line depicting the Chaco Wash runs roughly along the same line; a network of dashed and solid orange lines represent trails and metalled roads, respectively, also focus on the same axis, connecting the red dots. Two gold squares define high points: "Fajada Butte (2019 m.)" and "West Mesa (2035 m.)".
Major Chacoan sites within park margins

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is managed by the National Park Service, a federal agency within the Department of the Interior; neighboring federal lands hosting Chacoan roads are controlled by the Bureau of Land Management. In the 2002–2003 fiscal year, the park's total annual operating budget was US$1,434,000.[44] The park has a visitor center, which features the Chaco Collection Museum, an information desk, a theater, a book store, and a gift shop.

Prior to the 1980s, archeological excavations within current park boundaries were intensive: compound walls were dismantled or demolished, and thousands of artifacts were extracted. Starting in 1981, a new approach, informed by traditional Hopi and Pueblo beliefs, stopped such intrusions. Remote sensing, anthropological study of Indian oral traditions, and dendrochronology—which left Chacoan relics undisturbed—were touted. In this vein, the Chaco American Indian Consultation Committee was established in 1991 to give Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo, and other Indian representatives a voice in park oversight.[7]

Current park policy mandates partial restoration of excavated sites. "Backfilling", or re-burying excavated sites with sand, is one such means.[7] Other measures attempt to safeguard the area's ancient ambiance and mystique: the Chaco Night Sky Program, which seeks to eliminate the impact of light pollution on the park's acclaimed night skies; under the program, some 14,000 visitors make use of the Chaco Observatory (inaugurated in 1998), park telescopes, and astronomy-related programs.[7] Chacoan relics outside the current park's boundaries have been threatened by development: an example was the proposed competitive leasing of federal lands in the San Juan Basin for coal mining beginning in 1983. As ample coal deposits abut the park, this strip mining threatened the web of ancient Chacoan roads. The year-long Chaco Roads Project thus documented the roads, which were later protected from the proposed mining.[45]


Nine large round pits are seen from above, in washed-out daylight. Eight of the pits descend from a common stone platform; the ninth sits alone on a somewhat higher stone surface. The depressions run diagonally from bottom right to middle top. At bottom left are seen perhaps eight smaller, regularly sized rectangular "rooms" enclosed by ruined walls; to their left are larger ruined enclosures. Bordering the rings at top and right are various smaller rooms and walls which appear less ruined.
Chaco's smaller kivas numbered around 100, each hosting rituals for 50–100 worshipers; the 15 much larger "Great Kivas" each held up to 400

The Chacoans built their complexes along a nine-mile (14 km) stretch of canyon floor, with the walls of some structures aligned cardinally and others aligned with the 18.6 year cycle of minimum and maximum moonrise and moonset. Nine Great Houses are positioned along the north side of Chaco Wash, at the base of massive sandstone mesas. Other Great Houses are found on mesa tops or in nearby washes and drainage areas. There are 14 recognized Great Houses, which are grouped below according to geographic positioning with respect to the canyon.

Central canyon

The central portion of the canyon contains the largest Chacoan complexes. The most studied is Pueblo Bonito ("Beautiful Village"); covering almost 2 acres (0.81 ha) and comprising at least 650 rooms, it is the largest Great House; in parts of the complex, the structure was four stories high. The builders' use of core-and-veneer architecture and multi-story construction necessitated massive masonry walls up to 3 feet (91 cm) thick. Pueblo Bonito is divided into two sections by a wall precisely aligned to run north-south, bisecting the central plaza. A Great Kiva was placed on either side of the wall, creating a symmetrical pattern common to many Chacoan Great Houses. The scale of the complex, upon completion, rivaled that of the Colosseum.[5]

Daytime birds-eye view of a desert with semicircular complex of ruined walls abutting a mesa, which covers the top third of the photo. The straight side of the complex faces a metaled road delimiting the bottom third of the image. The complex itself comprises many smaller enclosed circular and rectangular spaces. These "rooms" no longer have ceilings.
Pueblo Bonito

Nearby is Pueblo del Arroyo. Founded between AD 1050 and 1075, completed in the early 12th century, it sits at a drainage outlet known as South Gap. Casa Rinconada, eloigned from other sites at Chaco. It sits to the south side of Chaco Wash, adjacent to a Chacoan road leading to a set of steep stairs that reached the top of Chacra Mesa. Its sole kiva stands alone, with no residential or support structures whatever; it did once had a 39-foot (12 m) passageway leading from the underground kiva to several above-ground levels. Chetro Ketl, located near Pueblo Bonito, bears the typical D-shape of many other central complexes, but is slightly smaller. Begun between AD 1020 and 1050, its 450–550 rooms shared one Great Kiva. Experts estimate that it took 29,135 man-hours to erect Chetro Ketl alone; Hewett estimated that it took the wood of 5,000 trees and 50 million stone blocks.[46]

Kin Kletso ("Yellow House") was a medium-sized complex located 0.5 miles (800 m) west of Pueblo Bonito. It shows strong evidence of construction and occupation by Pueblo peoples from the northern San Juan Basin. Its rectangular shape and design is related to the Pueblo II cultural group, rather than the Pueblo III style or its Chacoan variant. It contains around 55 rooms, four ground-floor kivas, and a two-story cylindrical tower that may have functioned as a kiva or religious center. Evidence of an obsidian-processing industry was discovered near the village, which was erected between AD 1125 and 1130.[47]

A nearly spherical ceramic vessel, painted with a network of black triangles and lines over a tan surface; many chips and cracks reveal a beige substratum. The top tapers to a short and narrow cylindrical neck. A toroidal carrying handle protrudes outward near it.
Anasazi, North America: A canteen (pot) excavated from the ruins in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico

Pueblo Alto, a Great House of 89 rooms, is located on a mesa top near the middle of Chaco Canyon, and is 0.6 miles (1.0 km) from Pueblo Bonito; it was begun between AD 1020 and 1050 during a wider building boom throughout the canyon. Its location made the community visible to most of the inhabitants of the San Juan Basin; indeed, it was only 2.3 miles (3.7 km) north of Tsin Kletsin, on the opposite side of the canyon. The community was the center of a bead- and turquoise-processing industry that influenced the development of all villages in the canyon; chert tool production was also common. Research conducted by archaeologist Tom Windes at the site suggests that only a handful of families, perhaps as few as five to twenty, actually lived in the complex; this may imply that Pueblo Alto served a primarily non-residential role.[48] Another Great House, Nuevo Alto, was built on the north mesa near Pueblo Alto; it was founded in the late 1100s, a time when the Chacoan population was declining in the canyon.


In Chaco Canyon's northern reaches lies another cluster of Great Houses; among the largest are Casa Chiquita ("Small House"), a village built in the AD 1080s, when, in a period of ample rainfall, Chacoan culture was expanding. Its layout featured a smaller, squarer profile; it also lacked the open plazas and separate kivas of its predecessors.[49] Larger, squarer blocks of stone were used in the masonry; kivas were designed in the northern Mesa Verdean tradition. Two miles down the canyon is Peñasco Blanco ("White Bluff"), an arc-shaped compound built atop the canyon's southern rim in five distinct stages between AD 900 and 1125. A cliff painting (the "Supernova Platograph") nearby may record the sighting of the SN 1054 supernova on July 5, 1054.β[›][50]

Daytime close-up of two angular, block-shaped crevices in a yellowish-appearing stone cliff. Three reddish-tan designs are scappled into the rightmost alcove, arranged roughly triangularly: a simple starburst with ten rounded rays, an inverted rounded crescent to its right, and a human handprint above the crescent.
Petroglyphs, Pueblo Bonito: a crescent moon, a hand, and (possibly) a supernova

Hungo Pavi, located 1 mi (1.6 km) from Una Vida, measured 872 feet (266 m) in circumference. Initial probes revealed 72 ground-level rooms,[51] with structures reaching four stories in height; one large circular kiva has been identified. Kin Nahasbas, built in either the 9th or 10th century, is sited slightly north of Una Vida, positioned at the foot of the north mesa. Limited excavation of it has taken place.[52]

Tsin Kletzin ("Charcoal Place"), a compound located on the Chacra Mesa and positioned above Casa Rinconada, is 2.3 miles (3.7 km) due south of Pueblo Alto, on the opposite side of the canyon. Nearby is Weritos Dam, a massive earthen structure that scientists believe provided Tsin Kletzin with all of its domestic water. The dam worked by retaining stormwater runoff in a reservoir. Massive amounts of silt accumulated during flash floods would have forced the residents to regularly rebuild the dam and dredge the catchment area.[53]

Inside daytime view of a ruined and ceiling-less rectangular room. Tawny-beige stacked sandstone bricks compose walls rising from brush-covered ground. The several walls visible in the image are up to perhaps a dozen feet in height. In the wall immediately at center, a triangle-shaped entrance several feet high leads to an adjacent chamber behind. The upper part of the same wall, shaped like an inverted-triangle, has fallen away or otherwise been removed, revealing a rectangular doorway leading to yet another concealed room. At left and right are two similar walls perpendicular to the one at middle.
Interior of Wijiji, an outlier site occupied between AD 1100 and 1150

Deeper in the canyon, Una Vida ("One Life") is one of the three oldest Great Houses; construction began around AD 900. Comprising at least two stories and 124 rooms,[51] it shares an arc or D-shaped design with its contemporaries, Peñasco Blanco and Pueblo Bonito, but has a unique "dog leg" addition made necessary by topography. It is located in one of the canyon's major side drainages, near Gallo Wash, and was massively expanded after 930.[43] Wijiji ("Greasewood"), comprising just over 100 rooms, is the smallest of the Great Houses. Built between AD 1110 and 1115,[54] it was the last Chacoan Great House to be constructed. Somewhat isolated within the narrow wash, it is positioned 1 mi (1.6 km) from neighboring Una Vida.

Directly north are communities even more remote: Salmon Ruins and Aztec Ruins, sited on the San Juan and Animas Rivers near Farmington, were built during a 30-year wet period commencing in AD 1100.[6][55] Sixty miles (100 km) directly south of Chaco Canyon, on the Great South Road, lies another cluster of outlying communities. The largest, Kin Nizhoni, stands atop a 7,000-foot (2,100 m) mesa surrounded by marshy bottomlands.


Great Houses

A partly overcast sky and subdued sunlight over a roughly six-foot tall wall of dusky tan sandstone bricks which vary somewhat in size. The wall runs diagonally from the immediate foreground at left towards the right, running perhaps several dozen feet to the near middle distance. A few feet to the right, in the middle foreground, a low ring of similar blocks delimits a circular pit sunk into the ground. The remains of several other ruinous low walls, perhaps one to three high at most, are arrayed in parallel; they align left to right from the high diagonal wall. Perhaps a mile distant to the center and right, a canyon wall slopes gradually level to meet the valley floor on which the walls sit.
Casa Rinconada

Immense complexes known as "Great Houses" embodied worship at Chaco. As architectural forms evolved and centuries passed, the houses kept several core traits. Most apparent is their sheer bulk; complexes averaged more than 200 rooms each, and some enclosed up to 700 rooms.[5] Individual rooms were substantial in size, with higher ceilings than Anasazi works of preceding periods. They were well-planned: vast sections or wings erected were finished in a single stage, rather than in increments. Houses generally faced the south, and plaza areas were almost always girt with edifices of sealed-off rooms or high walls. Houses often stood four or five stories tall, with single-story rooms facing the plaza; room blocks were terraced to allow the tallest sections to compose the pueblo's rear edifice. Rooms were often organized into suites, with front rooms larger than rear, interior, and storage rooms or areas.

A rectangular entrance through a thick wall dressed with sandstone blocks in the foreground. The entrance reveals a view of another similar wall, itself bearing a doorway showing yet another wall with another door. Four such nested sets of doorways are seen, with a fifth wall visible through the final fourth doorway.
Doorways, Pueblo Bonito

Ceremonial structures known as kivas were built in proportion to the number of rooms in a pueblo. One small kiva was built for roughly every 29 rooms. Nine complexes each hosted an oversized Great Kiva, each up to 63 feet (19 m) in diameter. T-shaped doorways and stone lintels marked all Chacoan kivas. Though simple and compound walls were often used, Great Houses were primarily constructed of core-and-veneer walls: two parallel load-bearing walls comprising dressed, flat sandstone blocks bound in clay mortar were erected. Gaps between walls were packed with rubble, forming the wall's core. Walls were then covered in a veneer of small sandstone pieces, which were pressed into a layer of binding mud.[56] These surfacing stones were often placed in distinctive patterns. The Chacoan structures altogether required the wood of 200,000 coniferous trees, mostly hauled—on foot—from mountain ranges up to 70 miles (110 km) away.[8][57][58]


Around two dozen bright yellow figures are mainly arrayed across the bottom half of a natural stone wall. Among them are footprints, handprints, spirals, dogs, and humans.
Petroglyphs, Una Vida: Observe reuse (overwriting of symbols) and various artists' styles—compare the barking dog (left center) to the two rectangular dogs below it. The hand-print (center-left) and foot-print (inside rectangular body, center) are common in Puebloan art. (Image enhanced for contrast; see unenhanced view.)

The meticulously designed buildings composing the larger Chacoan complexes did not emerge until around AD 1030. The Chacoans melded pre-planned architectural designs, astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping, and engineering into ancient urban centers of unique public architecture. Researchers have concluded that the complex may have had a relatively small residential population, with larger groups assembling only temporarily for annual ceremonies.[8] Smaller sites, apparently more residential in character, are scattered near the Great Houses in and around Chaco. The canyon itself runs along one of the lunar alignment lines, suggesting the location was originally chosen for its astronomical significance. If nothing else, this allowed alignment with several other key structures in the canyon.[5]

Around this time, the extended Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) community experienced a population and construction boom. Throughout the 10th century, Chacoan building techniques spread from the canyon to neighboring regions.[59] By AD 1115, at least 70 outlying pueblos of Chacoan provenance had been built within the 25,000 square miles (65,000 km2) composing the San Juan Basin. Experts speculate the function of these compounds, some large enough to be considered Great Houses in their own right. Some suggest they may have been more than agricultural communities, perhaps functioning as trading posts or ceremonial sites.[60]

Thirty such outliers spread across 65,000 square miles (170,000 km2) are connected to the central canyon and to one another by an enigmatic web of six Chacoan road systems. Extending up to 60 miles (97 km) in generally straight routes, they appear to have been extensively surveyed and engineered.[61][62] Their depressed and scraped caliche beds reach 30 feet (9.1 m) wide; earthen berms or rocks, at times composing low walls, delimit their edges. When necessary, the roads deploy steep stone stairways and rock ramps to surmount cliffs and other obstacles.[63] Though their purpose may never be certain, archaeologist Harold Gladwin noted that nearby Navajo believe that the Anasazi had built the roads to transport timber; archaeologist Neil Judd offered a similar hypothesis.[3]

See also


  • ^ α: The question of how to date Chacoan ruins was tackled by A. E. Douglass, the earliest practitioner of dendrochronology; consequently, the developmental chronology of Chaco Canyon's ruins is now the world's most extensively researched and accurate.[64]


  1. ^ National Park Service 1966
  2. ^ a b Strutin 1994, p. 6
  3. ^ a b Fagan 2005, p. 35
  4. ^ Fagan 1998, pp. 177–182
  5. ^ a b c d Sofaer 1997
  6. ^ a b Fagan 2005, p. 198
  7. ^ a b c d e f g National Park Service 2007
  8. ^ a b c Sofaer 1999
  9. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 5
  10. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 43
  11. ^ a b Hopkins 2002, p. 240
  12. ^ a b Fagan 2005, p. 47
  13. ^ Fagan 2005, pp. 46–47
  14. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 44
  15. ^ a b Fagan 2005, p. 45
  16. ^ Frazier 2005, p. 181
  17. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 222
  18. ^ Fagan 1998, p. 177
  19. ^ Stuart 2000, pp. 14–17
  20. ^ Stuart 2000, p. 43
  21. ^ Fagan 2005, pp. 18–19
  22. ^ Noble 1991, p. 120
  23. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 20
  24. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 126
  25. ^ Fagan 2005, pp. 55–57
  26. ^ Diamond 2005, pp. 136–156
  27. ^ Noble 1984, p. 11
  28. ^ Noble 1984, pp. 57–58
  29. ^ English 2001
  30. ^ LeBlanc 1999, p. 166
  31. ^ LeBlanc 1999, p. 180
  32. ^ a b Strutin 1994, p. 57
  33. ^ Strutin 1994, p. 60
  34. ^ Strutin 1994, pp. 57–59
  35. ^ Brugge, Hayes & Judge 1988, p. 4
  36. ^ Strutin 1994, pp. 12–17
  37. ^ Brugge, Hayes & Judge 1988, p. 7
  38. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 32
  39. ^ Strutin 1994, pp. 18–19
  40. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 165
  41. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 33
  42. ^ a b Strutin 1994, pp. 32
  43. ^ a b Fagan 2005, p. 6
  44. ^ National Park Service 2005
  45. ^ Frazier 2005, pp. 120–121
  46. ^ Strutin 1994, p. 26
  47. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 11
  48. ^ Fagan 2005, pp. 10–11
  49. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 21
  50. ^ a b Kelley & Milone 2004, p. 413
  51. ^ a b Fagan 2005, p. 26
  52. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 98
  53. ^ Frazier 2005, p. 101
  54. ^ Fagan 2005, pp. 6–7
  55. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 208
  56. ^ Fagan 2005, pp. 119–121
  57. ^ Reynolds, Betancourt & Quade 2005, p. 1062
  58. ^ Reynolds, Betancourt & Quade 2005, p. 1073
  59. ^ Fagan 2005, p. 204
  60. ^ Fagan 2005, pp. 202–208
  61. ^ Fagan 1998, p. 178
  62. ^ Noble 1984, pp. 52–53
  63. ^ Strutin 1994, p. 35
  64. ^ Fagan 2005, pp. 50–55


Further reading

  • LeBlanc, S. A. (1999), Prehistoric Warfare in the American Southwest, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0-87480-581-3  
  • Plog, S. (1998), Ancient Peoples of the American Southwest, Thames and London, ISBN 0-500-27939-X  

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

North America : United States of America : Southwest : New Mexico : Northwest New Mexico : Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Chaco Culture National Historical Park [1] is a major unit of the United States national park system located just outside Navajo Nation in New Mexico. It preserves extensive ruins of prehistoric American Indian communities. Chaco is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Pueblo Bonito ruin
Pueblo Bonito ruin



The Chaco dwellings were built and occupied primarily between about 850 and 1250 AD, during which time they were the hub of a remarkable network of transportation routes, many of which survive today as the "roads" of Chaco. They fell into disuse after 1300, probably due to climate change, although descendants of the Chacoans and other tribes remained aware of the ruins. The present park was one of the first units of the National Park System to be formed specifically to protect archaeological resources, being first formed as Chaco Canyon National Monument in 1907 (shortly after Mesa Verde National Park, which also started as a national monument rather than a park). The monument achieved national-park status in 1980 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.


Chaco is in canyon/mesa country, like most of northwestern New Mexico, but the topography in the park isn't as spectacular as in some other areas of the state; the visitor center, in the canyon bottom, is at an elevation of about 6200 feet, and the surrounding mesas rise only about 400 feet above this level. The canyon is wide and open for most of its length, unlike the narrow "slot canyons" to the northwest in Utah. This, of course, is why there's a park here: the openness of the canyon provided enough room to build the pueblos and grow crops. Note that this elevation is high enough to challenge the lungs of the visitor freshly up from sea level. You may find yourself a bit short of breath when hiking, so if you're going to be there overnight, it's recommended that you do the "easy" trails along the main loop first to get acclimatized somewhat, then the longer, more vertical backcountry trails on your second day.

Most of the rock comprising the mesas as well as the canyon floor is sedimentary, and consequently tends toward flat bedding planes that are interrupted by relatively few faults and folds. As a result, one of the hiking challenges is that the transition between individual geological formations along the canyon walls can be steep. This is incentive to stay on the constructed trails in the backcountry; you'll want to do that anyway, as off-trail hiking is generally prohibited and the prohibition is enforced.

One of the signature features of Chaco is Fajada Butte near the south entrance. This narrow, steep-walled butte rises about 400 feet above the canyon and is notable for artifacts including the "Sun Dagger," interpreted by some as an astronomical observatory/clock used by the Chacoans to keep track of annual progress toward the summer solstice. Fajada Butte is no longer open to hikers, but a roadside turnout near the south entrance leads to a viewpoint from which it can be seen and photographed to good advantage.

Flora and fauna

Chaco has high-desert flora, with sagebrush, cactus, etc., interspersed with small bits of piñon/juniper scrub forest, the latter primarily on the mesa tops. Chaco receives less precipitation (average 8 inches per year) than some other parts of New Mexico at similar latitude and elevation, and consequently does not have the coniferous forest of some areas to its east. Plant life is generally sparse.

Animal life too is not as abundant as elsewhere in the state, but wildlife encounters are still reasonably frequent. The largest animal you're likely to see is the ubiquitous coyote, although you may also see a deer or two. Elk and antelope are present in the region but rarely encountered in the park. Smaller carnivores such as bobcat, badger, fox and two species of skunk are sometimes seen, and rodents are locally abundant, with a few prairie-dog towns in the park. Small colonies of bats are present during the summer.

The shortage of water reduces the prevalence of bird life as well, but Chaco is still an island of at least relative avian abundance and diversity in this region. With luck you'll see a roadrunner or two, but don't count on it; they're rare here. The usual assortment of medium to large hawks (Cooper's hawk and kestrel are fairly common), owls (more often heard than seen), vultures and raven are present, if less abundant than in the mountains to the east. There are reasonably large populations of smaller birds, with warblers, sparrows, house finches, etc., common. Three species of hummingbirds are at hand, and one of the treats of late summer is watching the tiny but incredibly pugnacious rufous hummingbirds chasing off the larger, mellower black-chinned hummers that compete with the rufous for habitat. It's like watching a World War I aerial dogfight in miniature. Rufous hummers are rare in the park, however, and you'll be lucky to get this visual treat.

Western (prairie) rattlesnakes are occasionally seen in the backcountry, but you're much more likely to see various lizards scurrying along the tops of restored walls of structures, with skinks being fairly abundant.


Chaco, like most of northwestern New Mexico, has a high desert climate with four distinct seasons. Spring is dry and windy, with high temperatures rising rapidly from an average of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or so in March to over 80 F in June. Summer is hot, with highs frequently above 90 F, and with much of the average year's precipitation falling in isolated, brief but violent thunderstorms. However, it's the legendary "dry heat" that doesn't feel nearly as hot as in regions with higher humidity. Cooling starts in August and leads to a dry, temperate fall season that is usually a good time to visit Chaco. Winter is also pleasant with highs around 50 F and clear skies, although there are usually three or four frontal storms each winter that bring snow, usually in small quantities but with the occasional major snowstorm. The remoteness of the park is such that it's a good idea to check a weather forecast before visiting in the winter; Farmington, about 60 miles away, usually experiences similar weather, and its current conditions and forecast are updated regularly. If there's significant snow (say 6" or more) in the forecast, it's wise to defer your trip unless you're particularly well prepared for snowy roads.

Get in

Drive. The nearest city with air service is Farmington (New Mexico), about 60 miles north, which is served by a commuter airline (Mesa) that is a partner with United Airlines. The nearest major airport is in Albuquerque about 150 miles southeast. There is no rail or bus service in this remote region.

Older maps of the Chaco area may lead drivers astray owing to a road closure. This quote from the NPS web site (link below) gives current driving directions: "Hwy 57 from Blanco Trading Post (on US 550) is permanently closed at the park's north boundary. Do not take Hwy 57. From US 550, go to mile 112.5 (3 miles SE mile of Nageezi) and turn onto CR 7900 and CR 7950. Follow signs to the park. Hwy 57 south is open from the park boundary to Hwy 9. There is 20 miles of rough dirt road. Not recommended for RVs." The "not recommended for RVs" comment doesn't do this road justice: if there has been recent precipitation, this is a hairy road to drive that may leave you stuck in a large mud puddle or high-centered on a bypass, in either case about 20 miles from help. Avoid this route at such times, and go around to the eastern connection with the county roads. (You'll see two signs at the key turnoff on NM 9, one pointing left to Chaco and the other straight, also pointing to Chaco but giving a longer mileage; go straight in dubious conditions rather than left, and you'll connect to CR 7900.)


Entrance fees for the park are $4 for individuals, $8 for cars, and are good for seven days. The National Park Service's "Park Pass" ($50/year) secures unlimited repeat entries for this and other National Park Service units. Campsites (see below under "Sleep") are $10/night, with a $5 discount for holders of a Park Pass.

Permits are required for backcountry hiking. They're free and available at the visitor center, or at the trailheads.

Get around

The main sites are reached via a short loop road that is suitable for bicycles as well as cars; in fact, it's quite a comfortable ride that gives a more intimate sense of the canyon than you'll get from a car. If you are biking, make sure your tires resist punctures, as all manner of plants with thorns and spines grow in the park.

The short trails to the sites along the loop road can be visited in street shoes, but hiking boots are a good idea if you're planning on visiting any of the more remote areas described under "Do." Some but not all of the sites are wheelchair-accessible, as is one of the campsites at the park campground.


While there is a visitor center with exhibits (open 9-5 except major holidays), the park's trademark attraction is the collection of major ruins along the loop road in the canyon bottom. Some can be seen from the car, but more rewarding is to follow the short, easy trails at each that lead to and through the ruins. Pamphlets explain the important features of the sites. The ruins trails are open from sunrise to sunset; visiting with the sun near the horizon yields particularly appealing opportunities for photography.



There are four trails leading to remote ruins, all available for day use and closed after sundown. Probably the most interesting is the trail to Peñasco Blanco ruin, which has become famous for a well-preserved pictograph thought by some to represent the great supernova of 1054. This pictograph is under a rock alcove below the main Peñasco Blanco structures. Please treat it respectfully; this is a rare find in the world of anthropology. Note that this trail crosses a wash that can be dangerously full of water if there have been thunderstorms upstream.

All trails require free permits available at the visitor center or the trailheads. Hiking boots are a good idea, and carry plenty of water. Off-trail hiking is generally not allowed.


Bicycling is a good way to get around the main tourist loop, and in addition, there are two backcountry trails that offer mountain biking. Wijiji trail is shared with hikers and is a short (about 3 miles), easy ride that should take under an hour. A more serious undertaking is the ride to Kin Klizhin, an "outlier" site archaeologically related to the main canyon sites but well removed from the canyon itself. The ride to Kin Klizhin takes one southwest out of the canyon and into some very lonely country, and is about a 25-mile round trip. Go well prepared with water, repair kit, etc.

Fajada Butte
Fajada Butte

The exceptionally dark night skies of Chaco provide good opportunities for amateur astronomers who bring their own telescopes, but even better, in 1998 the park opened its own observatory [2] with a large (25") telescope and modern equipment that the visitor can share. During the summer there are interpretive programs by park staff, supplemented by members of The Albuquerque Astronomical Society [3] who bring equipment, give lectures, etc. Information on the program may be available at the Society's web page, but the Chaco information does not appear to have updated since 2004.


Most of the major Chaco ruins are photogenic, but a few tips to improve your chances of getting some good shots:

  • These ruins are big. Wide-angle lenses are useful.
  • Many of the "commercial" shots that you see are difficult for the average traveler to duplicate, because you're required to stay on the trails (and the requirement is enforced), limiting your opportunities to get shots from above. The Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl ruins are reached by trails that do lead to vantage points above the ruins, and are therefore better suited for this kind of shot than some others.
  • As in many such sites, photographs taken during the middle of the day can look somewhat flat, particularly in the height of summer. Plan on using your camera at sunrise and sunset if feasible. Fajada Butte, one of the park's iconic features, is particularly attractive at such times, with shadows that create interest.
  • You'll have a hard time incorporating much green and growing vegetation into your shots, but the vegetation, such as it is, is most photogenic early in the spring (if there's been some snow) and again early in the fall.


The visitor center includes a small gift shop and (very good) book store. For more elaborate memorabilia, stop in one of the towns you passed through on the way in, or if you're fortunate enough to be there at the time of a Navajo rug auction in nearby Crownpoint, give it a try (see under "Get out").


You'll have to bring your own food, as there is no food service at Chaco. Farmington/Bloomfield/Aztec, Gallup, and Grants, at least one of which you'll have to pass through en route to the park, have the usual restaurants and grocery stores. Crownpoint, the town nearest the park, has very basic food service.


There's no night life at the park; that's why it's there. The nearest town with any night life is Farmington. Note that alcoholic beverages in any form are prohibited within Navajo Nation, which occupies the area immediately west of the park.



The nearest hotels and motels are in Farmington and Bloomfield, about 60 miles north, and in communities along Interstate highway 40 (e.g. Gallup and Grants), a further distance south.


The park includes a single, rudimentary campground. Fee $10/site/night ($5 with NPS Park Pass). There is no potable water, but bottled water may be purchased at the visitor center, or water containers filled from the Park' water system. Vehicles (RVs, trailers) must be no longer than 30 feet. The campsites are first-come, first-served. In the non-winter seasons, the park rangers host a star party on Tues, Fri and Sat. evenings, complete with telescopes and advice on timely things worth seeing in the night skies.

The Gallo Campground has flush toilets and sinks with wash water (not for drinking). In 2008, the campground is limited to 35 spaces and no group camping while the wastewater treatment system is being repaired and upgraded. Check with the park, and try to arrive around noon to get a campsite. There are both drive-in and walk-in campsites. The walk-in campsites tend be more interesting and private.

The ranger talks and star parties are worth staying overnight in the park.


No backcountry camping/backpacking is permitted within the park.

Stay safe

There are no significant safety issues with the park itself (usual warnings about wildlife, sunscreen, etc.), but its remoteness means that you may want to pay a little extra attention to road safety while getting there and back. Northern New Mexico is notorious for problems with drunk drivers. Areas near Navajo Nation, as Chaco is, are particularly worrisome around payday (Thursday or Friday), as the prohibition of alcohol on the reservation drives alcoholic residents, of whom there are too many, to drive into Farmington or Gallup to indulge. Terrible accidents have happened involving Navajo Nation citizens on the way home after an evening of drinking; be extra cautious at such times.

Be alert also for livestock on the roads, particularly sheep. It's wise to fill your gas tank in Farmington or Gallup (or Grants or Thoreau) before heading for the park, as services are sparse indeed once you get off the main roads.

Weather conditions and hydration cannot be adequately emphasized. Every year there are rescues of visitors who are improperly preprared for either. From June to October, the Four Corners region is subject to violent afternoon and evening thunderstorms called "monsoons," or by the Navajo, the "male rains." The storms build quickly and can be preceded by strong winds, even into the 40-60 mile per hour range. Tents should always be tied with guy wires, and care must be taken ensuring the tent is not located in even the smallest of drainage courses.

It is safest to hike to isolated areas in the morning with the activity timed to return before mid-afternoon. When hiking during Monsoon season, carry a poncho or other rain gear. Take shelter and avoid trees or outcroppings because of lightning. If caught in a storm, if a feeling of hair raising or tingling is felt, crouch low to the ground, stay out of puddles, and try to keep your body from direct ground contact. Balance by holding on to your shoes. At your campsite, the tent is the safest shelter.

In terms of hydration, carry four to five liters of water when on one of the wilderness hikes. Anything less can be deadly. Drink before you feel thirsty. Set a rhythm where regular "swigs" of water are part of the hike. Even when visiting the "accessible" abandoned pueblos, it makes sense to carry at least a liter and to hydrate regularly. A good ratio is one liter of an electrolyte-filled drink to three liters of water. Consuming exclusively water can dilute eletrolytes and create a deadly body condition. For best results, use electrolytes that have little or no sugar or other sweeteners.

  • Navajo Nation lies just west of the park, with numerous related attractions. If you happen to be there on a Friday, a Navajo rug auction at Crownpoint combines well with a visit to Chaco. Rug auctions are "usually ... but not always" on the third Friday of the month; check the Crownpoint Rug Weavers Association's web site [4] to be sure. Crownpoint rug auctions are a fascinating cultural study even if you're not in the market for a rug.
  • Aztec Ruins National Monument is another NPS unit full of historical, cultural and archaeological interest; near the town of Aztec just east of Farmington.
This is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


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