Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chaco Canyon

During our recent desert SW vacation we paid a visit to the Pueblo ruins at Chaco Canyon, located in northwestern New Mexico. In 1987 this site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List… “the honor recognizes the uniqueness of the civilization centered at Chaco Canyon from 850AD to 1250AD, the park is one of only twenty World heritage sites in the United States.”
These plants caught my eye at the visitor’s center, can anyone identify them? We first we looked at the ruins of Chetro Ketl (The meaning and origin of this name are unknown). This is large Kiva in front of Chetro Ketl. The larger of the two ruins we visited was Pueblo Bonito, which was unearthed and preserved by seven expeditions (1920-27) of the National Geographic Society. The expeditions removed 100,000 tons of rubble and sand accumulated over the centuries. They also reconstructed parts of walls that had been destroyed to match the ancient masonry. From the National Park Service website on the subject of the original construction… “Using masonry techniques unique for their time, they constructed massive stone buildings (Great Houses) of multiple stories containing hundreds of rooms much larger than any they had previously built. The buildings were planned from the start, in contrast to the usual practiced of adding rooms to existing structures as needed. Constructions on some of these buildings spanned decades and even centuries.” Yes you read that right. Built between 850AD-1250AD these huge structures were multiple stories high and contained hundreds of rooms. Building materials (like the wooden logs used to support ceilings and floors) had to be brought in over hundreds of miles. The question of “where did they go” and “why did they choose to build here” was often repeated on park literature and by the Park Ranger who was giving a guided tour that we happened upon. While Andrew stayed with the tour for a bit I wandered off on my own to explore, this little guy was not at all camera shy. Here you can see the remains of the wooden beams which sported additional floors. Another plant I can't identify, although I suspect it may be the same as the first plant in this post, with less blooms... Leaving the park we saw this Elk munching next to the road, his harem was waiting nearby.


  1. Everything about the desert fascinates me, especially the plants. So resilient! (Sorry can't help on the ID)

  2. Sorry I can't help on the ID, but what a fascinating place! I've been reading a book recently called 1491, which is about the Americas before Columbus. A very interesting book.

  3. I hope the road was improved from when we went a few years ago. We pulled our trailer down this washboard road. It took hours to do the 17 or so miles. We lost our lights connection- shaken to bits. Anyway. it was all worthwhile as we thought the ruins were fantastic. It was one of the few parks we hadn't visited in the past. So much to see in this wonderful country and I'm sure many have never even heard of this remote place.

  4. What an amazing place! Very interesting read. Thank you for posting about it. The ranger is right and it's likely a question asked of a lot of ancient civilizations that are "discovered". Where did they go? What happened to them? Stirs the mind and imagination, doesn't it?

  5. Alan, glad to hear many people just don't see the beauty of the desert. And I don't get that!

    Alison, it really should visit if you have the opportunity, and thanks for the book referral!

    Lanchasite Rose, oh my...I can completely see that happening, yikes. We were lucky enough to follow behind a road grader that was smoothing things out nicely, well for about 3/4 of the way. The last half was pretty bad. Our little car was jumping all over the place.

    Bom, indeed it does, glad you enjoyed the post!

  6. I find places like this fascinating, and hopefully will get to see Chaco at some point. Our friends in Colorado say it is a must see.

  7. Could that be spiny hopsage (Grayia spinosa)?

  8. The 1st mystery shrub - Fourwing Saltbush / Atriplex canescens. 2nd - haven't a clue, but it looks like some kind of chenopod.

    Great trip to a magical place. even better than Mesa Verde or Bandelier, which is hard to do. Must have been quite the village.

    I'll have to find my picture of the largest claret cup mound I've ever seen in NM, under a ramada by the parking area.

  9. Les, I hope you will too, another one of those places I'd never heard of but really enjoyed seeing.

    Heather, had the DD (who lives in the same area) not replied with an alternate id I would have thought you had it. I'm impressed!

    DD, thanks for the id...and actually I think I enjoyed Mesa Verde at least as to be shared at some point.


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