Thursday, March 20, 2014

Chaco Canyon

Chaco Canyon in New Mexico has long been on my list of places to visit.  It's not easy to get there but when I knew that we needed to be in Albuquerque for a big event, it was time to try.  After spending the night in Farmington, New Mexico we head south eventually coming to the turn off heading west which would lead us to this canyon.  It was 22 miles in, most of which was dirt road with the last 6 miles being hard packed corduroy.  It was worth every bone jarring minute.

In 1987, Chaco Canyon was made a World Heritage Site but this was long after it was declared a United States National Historical Park. 


Pueblo Bonito is the grandest of the "grand" houses and was inhabited from about 850 to 1250 AD.  There are dwellings, old roadways, watering systems, great kivas, petroglyphs, hewn staircases, and astrological markings throughout the canyon.

We spent most of our time at Pueblo Bonita.

This was a massive structure of several levels and many rooms.

Beautiful stone walls made from the surrounding cliffs are beautifully constructed.

In the 1920's, great care was taken to remove a thousand years of debris and to stabilize the walls.

At some point, the cliff wall at the back of Pueblo Bonita collapsed destroying at least 40 rooms of the Pueblo Bonito.

This is a shallow and wide canyon with a stream bed running down the middle.  Additional structures are located across the canyon from Pueblo Bonita.  Notice the rocks in the foreground which fell from the cliff.

The wood to support windows, doorways, and ceilings was used to date the construction periods.  It was found that the wooden beams came from trees located on mountains 40 to 50 miles to the west.  It is unknown how they were transported to this site.

It was amazing to think that the wood I was seeing was a thousand years old.

It is surmised that Pueblo Bonita was more of ceremonial site.

Notice that the walls are the same coloration as the cliff walls in the background.

Looking back at the cliff from which massive amounts of rock fell destroying part of the pueblo.

There were several kivas in the compound  Across the canyon is the largest kiva found in the canyon.  It has a very precise north south orientation.

This is a very open site and I was able to walk through some of the structures in the background.

This is the largest kiva at Pueblo Bonita.  There was a stone bench around the circle with niches above.  It is not certain as to the purpose of the smaller walled rectangles inside.

That is Glen in his green jacket seating on a bench overlooking the giant kiva.

There were several smaller kivas such as this one.

It is thought that these many interconnected large rooms may have been store rooms.

I loved the juxtaposition of blue sky . . .

and massive hand made rock walls.

I was also able to enter from the west side of the structure where door after door beckoned me. . .

in several directions.

The ancient structures of the American Southwest have fascinated me since childhood.  My mother took us to Mesa Verde National Park when I was a young teen.  It was magical, quiet, and awe inspiring.  I have been to many others since and I always feel the same way.  There was a time when a great culture flourished in this dry wide open plateau and I was grateful for a glimpse.

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