Chaco Canyon

Simply amazing, and worth the time and wear and tear on your vehicle. In the morning we are treated to a spectacular sunrise, followed by slight overcast, which is a pleasant surprise and will prove to be beneficial for the day’s exploration.


While we only were able to spend two days here, we certainly got an eyefull. As there was so much to see/experience, I will divide our exploration of the Chaco Culture National Historic Park into “sections”. There are at least nine sites in which to explore: Una Vista; Hungo Pavi; Casa Rinconda Community; Chetro Ketl; Pueblo Bonito; Pueblo del Arroyo; Pueblo Alto Complex; Kin Kletso; Casa Chiquitta; Peñasco Blanco. During our trip, we visited the following sites: Pueblo Bonito, Penasco Blanco, Kin Kletso and the Pueblo Alto Complex. This post will cover Pueblo Bonito. But first, a little history of this area and its historic/cultural significance.


Evidence of peoples inhabiting this canyon area (once under the sea), date back to the 500’s CE. Nearly 400 miles of “pre-historic roads” lead to, or from, this canyon. It wasn’t until the 800’s that serious building of structures appeared to begin, with the 900-1100, marking a great civilization with numerous stone, communal buildings having been erected which lead archeologist and anthropologist (in conjunction with Pueblo peoples tribal oral histories) to believe that Chaco Canyon was a “hub of regional cultures”. It was a center for trade from as far south as central Mexico and far west as the Pacific Ocean. Ceremonies and construction/artisan techniques “originating” from this “center of civilization” are evident in the Navajo and Pueblo clans in the “four-corners” area. As with our visit to Bandelier National Monument (from where it is also believed the clans of the Chacoan People migrated to), lack of water, enough sustain the “masses”, appears to be the reason for the “abandoment” of, and migration from, these sites.

After wandering through the highly informative Visitor’s Center, whose exhibits are in the process of becoming updated/enhanced, we headed to Pueblo Bonito, built in “stages” between the mid-800’s to early 1100’s.

Pueblo Bonito 2018.jpg

So far, it is the largest “great house” ( discovered in this canyon, so far).  In places it stood four stories high, and had at least 600 rooms and 40 Kivas (of varying sizes).

It’s walls are nearly 2 feet thick, straight as an arrow, with perfectly square doorways. Mud motar bonds blocks of readiliy available sandstone rocks.

Some walls are perfectly straight and “smooth” to the touch, even though said walls were plastered with adobe mud and “painted”. Repeating designs using large slabs of sandstone “chinked” with smaller stones placed in the motar, mark particular periods of building, and obviously masonary style and/or technique(s).

Remains of 6″ diameter logs, “imported” from some 60 miles away are imbeded in the stone, marking supports for floors and/or ceiling-roofs.


Wandering this site has elements of the “Winchester Mystery House” in San Jose, California, or even “Hearst Castle” in San Simeon, California, in that no one really knows the absolute purpose/use of each “room”. Through remains and artifacts found in several rooms, of this and some 2000 other sites in this canyon, it is known that rooms served as pens for domesticated turkeys and rabbits, as well as for the making of pottery, clothing, jewelry and general storage.

We wander over, upon and through Pueblo Bonito. The fact that it’s still standing to some extent is a testament to the craftsmanship. The structure was “D” shaped, as were most in this area with an orientation of the face of the buildings to the south, on an East/West axis, in order to gain the most daily sunlight.


A view of Pueblo Bonito from the cliff-top , on the next day’s hike

From here we head down to the trail that begins our “Where’s Waldo” of petroglyphs trail search.

This entry was posted in Ancestral Pueblo People, Ancient Architecture, Chaco Canyon, Chaco Culture National Historic Park, Mini Adventures, National Parks, New Mexico, puebloan ancestors, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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