Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Written by on May 7, 2015 in NM History & Heritage - Comments Off on Chaco Culture National Historical Park

There is a 20-miles stretch of Chaco Wash in the San Juan Basin that was a major center of Puebloan culture between AD 850 and 1250. There are nine major houses and nearly 4,000 other smaller sites that are part of the homeland of Pueblo Indian peoples of New Mexico, the Hopi Indians of Arizona, and the Navajo Indians of the Southwest.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is located in Northwest New Mexico. It was the hub of trade, culture and ceremony for the Four Corners region and is unlike anything seen before or since. Some of the walls in the major houses rise as high as five stories, and required a great deal of architectural planning. The builders planned astronomical alignments, landscaping and public spaces that must have amazed the ancient peoples, and still awe visitors today. Archeologists have decided there were very few if any living spaces, however, dozens of ceremonial spaces were built into these locations. The great kivas at Chetro Ketl and Casa Rinconada are more than 60 feet in diameter and were probably used for region-wide ceremonies. With so few sleeping spaces, archeologists speculate that this was a major trade center. Traded goods probably included salt, copper bells, macaw feathers, pottery and especially worked turquoise.

The major houses like Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, Casa Rinconada and others are situated at an elevation of 6,200 feet, tucked into the walls of Chaco Canyon. The ancient people who called the area home, cultivated the arroyo with corn, beans and squash, and watered their fields with runoff channeled from the mesas above and from irrigation canals.

In 1937, a Civilian Conservation Corps group began work at Chaco to restore the ruin. The all-Navajo crew of stonemasons repaired many of the excavated buildings, and second and third generation stonemasons continue the work today!

A 9-mile paved loop road accesses five major Chacoan sites, including Pueblo Bonito, with self-guiding trails at each site. The Visitor’s Center include a museum, theater, book shop and gift store. There are four backcountry hiking trails that will take you to the more remote sites. Temperatures can range as much as 60 degrees in a single day in the park, so come prepared for all weather extremes. Gallo Campground is located within the park, and there is plenty of lodging, dining and shopping opportunities in the nearby communities of Bloomfield, Aztec, Farmington, Cuba, Grants and Gallup.

Other attractions in the area:
El Morrow National Monument
Top 5 Things To Do In Durango
El Malpais National Monument
Petroglyph National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument

Chaco Culture National Historical Park
P. O. Box 220
Nageezi, NM 87037
Phone: (505) 786-7014 ext. 221

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