Chaco Culture National Historical Park preserves one of America’s most significant and fascinating cultural and historic areas.
Chaco Canyon was a major center of ancestral Puebloan culture between AD 850 and 1250. It was a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area – unlike anything before or since.
Chaco is remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial buildings, and its distinctive architecture. To construct the buildings, along with the associated Chacoan roads, ramps, dams, and mounds, required a great deal of well organized and skillful planning, designing, resource gathering, and construction. The Chacoan people combined pre-planned architectural designs, astronomical alignments, geometry, landscaping, and engineering to create an ancient urban center of spectacular public architecture – one that still amazes and inspires us a thousand years later.
The Chacoan cultural sites are fragile and irreplaceable and represent a significant part of America’s cultural heritage. The sites are part of the sacred homeland of Pueblo Indian peoples of New Mexico, the Hopi Indians of Arizona, and the Navajo Indians of the Southwest, all of whom continue to respect and honor them.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a very special place. Remote and isolated, it offers few amenities, so come prepared. You will find that the rewards are unlimited.
The extensive Chacoan road system is impressive. More than 400 miles of prehistoric roadway have been identified. This system connected Chaco to outlying communities and resource areas. It also provided connections between outlying communities. Some segments appear to lack a recognizable destination. One of the longest identifiable road segments of road headed north, leading to the prehistoric communities of Salmon and Aztec.
These roads were not simple trails worn by centuries of foot travel. They were engineered and planned, and represent a significant amount of labor investment in their construction and maintenance. Their function may have been more than utilitarian. There is a growing consensus among archeologists that the road features may directly reflect the pueblo world view.
The most elaborate road construction occurs near the great houses, where double and quadruple road segments have been found. These segments may relate to ritual and ceremony. The prehistoric road system facilitated communication between communities and assisted in the transportation of goods. It also provided a means for bringing the culture together through its relation to the social organization and cosmography of these ancient people.
This amazing Anasazi city is one of North America’s oldest settlements. Though abandoned centuries ago, the architecture and engineering of the Chaco ruins inspire awe. By the dawn of the 11th century Pueblo Bonito, one of the park’s signature structures, had reached a height of four stories and contained more than 600 rooms. Mysteriously, sometime during the 11th century the Anasazi abandoned Chaco Canyon; many scholars think an extended drought forced resettlement. Chaco Canyon is a “primitive” park, accessible only by dirt road and with few traveler services. Self-guided tours are explained at the Visitor Center.