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Chaco Canyon


Pueblo Bonito at Chaco Canyon

Pueblo Bonito, one of ten ruins at Chaco Canyon

Kris Hirst


Anasazi cultural center


Northwestern New Mexico; approximately 21 miles off of what used to be New Mexico 44, 16 of which is dirt road which can be rough in inclement weather. See the NPS website for directions.

Dates Occupied:

AD 650-1130, heyday between 850 and 1150.

Architecture to Visit:

Chaco Canyon holds numerous single buildings and ten large ruins made of rock and sun-dried brick, consisting of what were basically multiple-story apartment complexes with associated granaries, communal rooms, and circular subterranean religious structures called kivas.

Museum/Gift Shop:

The Visitor's Center at Chaco includes a museum, information desk, theater, astronomy observatory (April to mid November), gift shop, and bookstore.

Recommended Reading:

Several good websites are available, listed over there on the right, but for middle school kids, there's a great book by Vivian and Anderson I've seen, also linked over there.

Excavators and Excavations:

Excavations in Chaco Canyon have a long history, beginning in 1877. Primary investigators during the early days included Richard Wetherill, Edgar Hewett and Neil Judd. Most recent studies have been conducted by James Judge, Gwynn Vivian, and Robert and Florence Lister and have looked at the broader Chaco valley.

Why You Should Go:

Chaco Canyon is peaceful and lovely; but that's because it is out of the way and a little hard to get to. The ruins are spread out and probably the best way to experience the site is to get in on one of the tours conducted at Chaco on a regular basis. A lot of the recent work completed in the Chaco valley has focused on the extensive road system, which extended the 30 foot wide routes straight outward from Chaco, to and past several smaller village ruins.

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