"Yupkoyvi: "The Place beyond the Horizon"" Chaco Canyon National Monument by goodfish
Chaco Canyon National Monument Travel Guide: 33 reviews and 93 photos
I don't know where to begin to write about Chaco.
This was our second trip to this remote and mysterious canyon and I fell as completely under its spell as I did the first time. Of all the ancient, sacred sites we've visited in the Southwest, this is the one that speaks to me like no other. It is a place that is to be sensed as much as seen. No picture can capture it and the language doesn't exist that can adequately describe the experience.
This was once the Atlantis of a sophisticated culture reaching back 1000 years. Over 400 miles of impossibly straight, prehistoric roads radiating out of the canyon connected smaller communities throughout the San Juan basin with this vital city of commerce and ceremony. Massive Great Houses of intricate stone masonry rose 4-5 stories high above the desert floor, carefully aligned for communication between houses and observation of celestial events. Complex irrigation systems for trapping and channeling water made agriculture possible in a hot and arid environment. Artifacts recovered from the archeological sites indicate that there was extensive trading here from all corners of the region and as far away as Central America.
But the Great Houses, with their hundreds of rooms, are believed not to have been built as homes but largely as storage rooms and accommodations for people from outlying areas who converged here for ceremonial rites and trade. Why the Ancestors chose this particular place is a mystery as, unlike many other pueblos, the exposed location at the bottom of a canyon versus the top of a mesa clearly indicates that they weren't concerned about defense. But the larger question is why they abandoned this large and important site. Theories are many: drought, overpopulation, breakdown of the society, hostile invaders or a combination of all of these factors. Whatever the case, their descendants now populate modern pueblos throughout the Colorado Plateau and Chaco today is a silent and ghostly reminder of what was once the greatest prehistoric civilization in the American Southwest.
- Pros:Not as overrun as other National Parks, great hiking
- Cons:Remote, few services (which is why it's not overrun)
- In a nutshell:Probably the most important archeological site in the Southwest
If you have the time, this is a nice alternative route to Chaco over the Jemez Mountains, through Santa Fe National... more travel advice
Unfortunately, vandalism, theft of artifacts and damage to fragile ecological sites and structures is a huge problem for... more travel advice
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