Fajada Butte

Chaco Culture National Historical Park in Chaco Canyon

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a United States National Historical Park hosting the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest.  The park is located in northwestern New Mexico, between Albuquerque and Farmington, in a remote canyon cut by Chaco Wash.  The park preserves one of the United States' most important pre-Columbian cultural and historical areas.  Comprising a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the arid and sparsely populated Four Corners region, the Chacoan cultural sites are fragile – concerns of erosion caused by tourists have led to the closure of Fajada Butte to the public.  The sites are considered sacred ancestral homelands by the Hopi and Pueblo people, who maintain oral accounts of their historical migration from Chaco and their spiritual relationship to the land.

Between AD 900 and 1150, Chaco Canyon was a major center of culture for the Ancestral Puebloans.  Chacoans quarried sandstone blocks and hauled timber from great distances, assembling fifteen major complexes that remained the largest buildings ever built in North America until the 19th century [Wikipedia].  Chaco Canyon is on the Trail of the Ancients, a trail of highways and roads in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, dedicated to the archaeological and cultural history of southwestern Native Americans.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park has offered a strong astronomy component in its public interpretive programs since 1991.  John Sefick's suggestion of relocating his observatory into the Park was well received by Park officials, and he moved it into the Park in March, 1998.  Chaco Observatory was dedicated on May 30, 1998 and immediately began an outreach program to Park visitors.  The Park became the world's newest International Dark Sky Park on August 19, 2013.  Select menu option Observatory for more information.

View Photos is an auto-show of the Chaco Canyon photos in the Photo Gallery.  The Observatory's night sky may be threatened by Chaco Oil & Gas?  The Chaco roads map of pre-historic roads has incorrect road numbers.  US160 turns northeast at Teec Nos Pos west of the Arizona border, joining US666 (491) on the way to Cortez, Colorado.  US666 was created in 1926 as spur #6 off US66 - there were only 5 spurs, it should have been created as US560.  US666 was renumbered US491 in 2003 because of the belief by some that 666 is the Mark of the Beast, and because there were an inodinate number of fatal acidents (I have often driven that road - it's driver error, not the beast, that causes those accidents).  The road from Teec Nos Pos through Shiprock, Farmington, and Bloomfield (the junction near Salmon Ruin) and on east that is labelled US550 is US64.  US550 comes from Colorado through Aztec and Bloomfield and replaces Colorado 44 through Cuba.  And, finally, Colorado 57 through Chaco Culture is now Colorado 317.  This Prehistoric-Roads map has better road numbers (still has US666) but does not have all of the prehistoric roads on the other map.  The computer reconstruction image of Pueblo Bonito from the Solstice Project at Pagan Space is an interesting view of how the pueblo may have looked anciently.  We have twenty photos of the ruins in Chaco Canyon, and hundreds may be viewed at Mark Hinton's  globe Ah, Wilderness! blog (new window).