My 14th ~ New Mexico
Up until about a week ago, I had never heard of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. When I ask if anyone had suggestions to add to our itinerary, this was brought up, in fact, more than once.
When I learned that it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I became determined to somehow make it fit, even if it meant going a couple hours out of our way.
Since we would need to travel down a rough dirt road to get there from the south, we decided to leave Ellie Mae tethered to her spot at Red Rock Park and continue forth in our trusty Subaru, Jethro.
The roads there were good until the last 20 miles and then they were more challenging and we were glad to not be in the RV.
In case you are like me, and not familiar with this historical site, I’ll try to give a brief intro to why it is being preserved and designated a UNESCO site.
” From 850-1150, Chaco Canyon served as a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture. Remarkable for its monumental buildings, distinctive architecture, astronomy, artistic achievements, it served as a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration for the Four Corners Area unlike anything before or since.” ~nps
“Native people made this high desert valley the center of their world. They created monumental architecture and developed far-reaching commerce and a complex social organization. The Chaco people began building here on a grand scale in the mid-800’s. Using masonry techniques unique for the time, they continued to expand their massive, multi-story stone buildings for over 300 years. From the start, they planned their buildings to have hundreds of rooms.”~ Park brochure
Our stop at the visitors center yielded a map, suggestions and a 20 minute movie detailing some of the history of the area. There was also what had potential for being an interesting museum. Tim labeled it the “Museum that almost was”.
Evidently they built the museum and then were denied getting the relics for the display cases because the humidity and environment was not controlled to strict enough standards.
This letter was posted on the glass of several empty cases.
I asked the ranger how they were progressing on getting the items for the cases and he said “It could be soon, or after I die”. I inquired about his health, and evidently he has no plans on expiring soon, so it may be a long, long time.
We visited several of the recommended great houses while driving the nine mile loop through the park.
Located right behind the visitors center. This unexcavated house has the best views of the landscape. The time frame is 850-1250.
Near natural drainage and springs, this is the most easily accessed from the road.
This was the crown jewel. This is the largest great house, composed of over 600 rooms and 40 kivas. It reached four stories in places.
SOME HELPFUL INFORMATION:
- The recommended way into the park is from the north which offers up regular roads.
- The dirt road from the south can become unpassable after a rainstorm.
- There are no services inside the park so be sure to gas up ahead of time, also bring plenty of water and snacks or picnic.
- The park is at 6200 feet in elevation. Winters are cold and summers hot.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: I think this will be a huge win for some people and ho hum for others. We talked to one man who described it as, “the largest, best preserved ancient architectural site in North America”. Another called it his “favorite site to visit in all of the USA”. A woman we spoke with thought it comparable to Machu Picchu. I am thankful that we visited and saw it for ourselves, but I can not rave about it in the same way others have. I do have great respect that this is a sacred site for Native Americans, but can not put it in the same league as Machu Picchu. Extraordinary? Interesting? Most definitely, and if you are going to be passing this way, you too may find it to be a complete WOW.