Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

PO Box 220
Nageezi, New Mexico,  87037

Phone: Visitor Information (505) 786-7014 ext. 221

Website: http://www.nps.gov/chcu/index.htm

From the Farmington area; Route 550 to Albuquerque is a paved highway to CR 7900 and eventually a turn onto CR 7950; it basically took us one hour to do this drive to get to the park.  I've met many folks who have done this trip and carry on about the condition of the roads.  Most of the driving will be along a paved road before going over several portions of a graded (flattened) dirt/gravel road; the roadway throughout the entire park is newly paved.  So, what are the complaints about?  There will be two dry washes (dried out riverbeds) that will need crossing over; flash flooding during the rainy season makes this section severely uneven and rutted.  Get over it!   Listen, if you're some spoiled brat who has a fainting spell whenever you feel a bump in a road; why are you even leaving your own home in the first place?  This amazing park is worth every tiny, unimportant inconvenience to your delicate butt section.  So, lets get on with the meat of this blog post...Chaco Canyon.

CR 7950

This park is to New Mexico what Mesa Verde in Colorado and Canyon de Chelly is to Arizona; however, instead of seeing the ruins from overlooks, you are on the canyon floor and able to walk to each site easily along a dirt trail.  Immediately upon entering the park's limits, you'll pass by a stone oven and a ruin site, there are also ruins at the campground; oh, elk and coyote run free here and have right of way, so stay alert.

Ruins at the campground.
Stone Oven.
Imagine, you haven't even gotten to the Visitor Center yet, and already the amazement is surrounding you in ruins, wildlife and landscape.  One more stop before the VC, welcome to Fajada Butte, home of the "Sun Dagger" site; a system of stone pillars and carved spirals which allow the sunlight to indicate the Solstices and Equinoxes.

Fajada Butte

The VC is just around the corner where you'll pay your fee and get an entry tag; there are a few exhibits and a small gift shop.  There is a picnic area outside and we had picked up lunch at the Road Runner gas station on Route 64 in Aztec; there is a "Burritos Y Mas" there and the food is outstanding!  We had the Stuffed Sopapilla (one with green chile sauce, the other with red) which came with rice and salad...to die for!!!  Oh yeah, back to the ruins and such; but consider this a hint, bring a picnic to enjoy at the park.  In the parking area of the VC is a short trail to a ruin site called "Una Vida"; of course I've also posted a map of the park.  There are many signs posted throughout the park, so you'll have no trouble finding sites, but we found some interesting places not listed on the map too.

Map gives specific details of trail lengths.

We'd only just left the VC when there was a ruin site to our right (not on the map); besides for wildlife, you have to keep your eyes open for just about anything in this canyon area.  We did see a lone coyote, poor thing looked so beat up and was missing his tail; our hearts wanted to help him, but knew this was impossible.  He was a wild animal and in his eyes, we were either a predator or prey.

"Hungo Pavi" was the first official stop on the map; the architecture of the buildings is impressive.  If you have binoculars or a zoom lens on your camera, several pieces of rock art can be seen on the high walls behind the site.  The sad part about many of the rock art sites is that they have been defaced by the "mentally deficient" who believe their initials are important in some way....that's a big NO!".  The high walls of the canyon also show different layers of the earth's development.  One such layer is of a black to dark grey coloring; Menefee Formation - siltstone, mudstone, sandstone embedded with carbonized shale and thin coal beds; developed during the Mesozoic Era (245 to 66 million years ago).


 "Chetro Ketl" is the next ruin site, but in between it and "Hungo Pavi", I saw some red markings high up on a wall face...Yes, it was more rock art!

 "Chetro Ketl" and "Pueblo Bonito" are connected by a common trail site; one trail leads to the "Chetro Ketl" to the right; "Pueblo Bonito" to the right.  However, there is a common trail at the back walls , "The Petroglyph Trail" which connects both sites.  "Pueblo Bonito" has guided tours, so check at the VC for specific times; or go it alone.  At the sites, there are informational booklets that can be purchased, or simply borrowed and returned.

But wait, there's more; in the same area is a trail that leads to "Kin Kletso" and "Pueblo Alto".

Kin Kletso.

As you're going around the circle, you'll pass a historic cemetery to the right; park in the designated area and simply walk the trail. This is the cemetery of Richard Wetherill, his family and a couple of workers from his ranch.  He was an amateur explorer, credited with the finding of the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde, Colorado.  In 1901 he was homesteading land in Chaco Canyon, relinquished his claim in 1907 when the area was designated a national park by President Theodore Roosevelt, but was allowed to remain at his homestead until his death, by murder, in 1910.

From the same parking area, "Pueblo del Arroyo" is another outstanding site.

"Grinding Station"

Keyhole Kiva

"Casa Rinconada" is a Great Kiva; if you want to get an excellent idea of what it might have looked like in its original state, I highly recommend you visit Aztec Ruins National Monument; or click on the name in this post and see the photos there.  Being up close and personal is so much better than photos though.
Casa Rinconada

 Almost done with the photos, and we sure were almost done in by the time we reached the "Chacoan Stairway"; essentially there is no trail here, just a look and see along the side of the road.  It is pretty impressive once you realize that this is an actual road that had been used by the Puebloan people.

Then came the long ride home to Monticello, Utah; and before you ask, Yes, it was worth every moment! 
Because of the long distance we had to travel to get to Chaco Culture, we eventually were too tired to walk all the trails.  This means we just have to go back again, and do the trails we missed on our first visit; we don't see a problem with this.
~ Mary Cokenour ~

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