Chaco Culture National Historic Park

New Mexico

The 45-minute drive along a bumpy dirt road to Chaco Culture National Historic Park—the only route into the 34,000-acre park—serves to put the visitor in the right frame of mind for this land from time gone by. The sky looms large over the nearly treeless desert landscape, and the horizon stretches to the far end of the one's imagination. There is little evidence that the 21st century made it here to northwestern New Mexico.

A thousand years ago this valley was the political and economic center of the Anasazi, a people whose legacy is forever shrouded in mystery by their disappearance some 700 years ago. Much of what is known about the Anasazi has been learned from the approximately 1,200 ruins found in the park. The complex system of homes and roads, abundance of turquoise jewelry, and cryptic petroglyphs reveal precious few secrets of this puzzling culture.

Exactly 1,000 years ago Chaco Canyon flourished under the able hands of Anasazi artisans, builders, and farmers. Though the high desert environment of Chaco seems an improbable place for any culture to take root, the Anasazis seemed able to adapt to the elements. It is estimated that as many as 5,000 people lived in Chaco Canyon at one point. The people farmed the lowlands, built multi-story stone and mud buildings, and traded as far south as Mexico.

The ruins are an inextricable part of this beautiful landscape. The mind's eye fills in holes and rebuilds the fallen walls of the pre-Columbian structures. Take the time to see them and respect them as the historical and environmental treasures they are.

Contact Details
Chaco Culture National Historic Park
P.O. Box 280
Nageezi, NM 87037
Phone: 505-786-7014
Fax: 505-786-7061

Published: 24 Oct 2008 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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