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Chaco Canyon is located in Northwestern New Mexico, about as close to the edge of nowhere as one can get. Roads into the park are not paved — and quite rough — although the roads inside the park boundaries are paved. The effect of these rough roads is to discourage the casual tourists. You really have to want to see the park to drive there, and it is certainly not on the way to anywhere.

The Chaco Canyon area was inhabited by the Anasazi. The park is located in the high deserts of the Southwest at an elevation of 6,000-7,000 ft. Chaco Canyon is a very unique place. Several ancient roads converge here, indicating that this was a center for trade. There are whole cities in the area which have yet to be excavated. It is estimated that over 300 hundred pueblos and storehouses line a 10 mile stretch of the Canyon.

Ruins inside the park include:
Penasco Blanco, Casa Chiquita, Kin Kletso, Pueblo Alto, Rabbit Ruin, Pueblo Bonito, Pueblo del Arroyo. Chetro Ketl, Casa Rinconada, Tsin Kletsin, Hungo Pavi, Una Vida, Pueblo Alto, New Alto, and Wijiji.

Pueblo Bonito has a unique "D" shape and was excavated by the Smithsonian Institute. A number of impressive items such as pottery caches (including cylindrical jars), flutes, yucca sandals, jewelry, stone effigies, arrows, and prayer sticks have been excavated here. Archeologists estimate that Pueblo Bonito had more than 600 rooms.

Chetro Ketl is noted for its great kiva and its tower kiva which is a distinctive structure.

Casa Rinconada has a great kiva that is aligned precisely with celestial north. The largest kiva in the area, it also has hidden entrances, which may have allowed religious leader to make dramatic, if not magical, entrances.

Various ancient stairways are also found throughout Chaco Canyon. If you are adventurous, you can hike the ancient trails, checking out the Jackson Stairway, as long as you have a backcountry permit. You could also see the small diversion dams and canals.

Other unique features in the area include pictographs, which are believed to depict the supernova explosion which occurred in 1054 AD.

Chaco has a lot to offer to the enthusiast who loves the more remote areas of the US. If you can make it over the rough roads to the park, there is a lot to see and experience.

Location: Northwestern New Mexico. As close to the middle of nowhere as it is possible to get. Northeast of Gallup, New Mexico. Southwest of Farmington, New Mexico. 60 miles north of I-40. Note: Roads leading into the park are not paved. Roads inside the park itself are. Take appropriate cautions when necessary, i.e. never cross a flooded wash, watch for flash floods if it is raining anywhere in the region, watch for deer, cows, and horses, etc.

Weather: This is high altitude. Conditions can change rapidly. Please observe all warning signs. Thunderstorms with lightning can be extremely dangerous. With, inclement weather, roads and trails can become impassible.


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