Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde


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Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde

The landscape of the west is full of mysteries and surprises.  Some of the wonders are the ruins that are found in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.  There are two areas that are especially rich, Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and Mesa Verde National Park in southern Colorado.  If you have the opportunity you should visit them.

Chaco Canyon

Road Map to Chaco Canyon

Road Map to Chaco Canyon

Northeast of Gallup and northwest of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, almost due west of the small town of  Cuba a combination of paved and dirt roads leads to Chaco Canyon, a World Heritage Site.  When I visited the area there were few signs to guide me and no traffic, just empty vistas.  I wondered what I would do if the car broke down.

I did come across a lunch wagon parked at a cross roads.  There were no other signs of people anywhere in sight and I could see for miles in all directions.  The lunch wagon  had a little sign advertising “Hamburgers“.

I asked the fellow why he had his lunch wagon there.  He told me it was where the school bus let the kids out!  Anyway . . .he assured me that I was going in the right direction and would reach Chaco Canyon in good time.

Road into Chaco Canyon

Road into Chaco Canyon

When we got there we went into the visitors center.  In the middle of the room was a large display case with pottery such as this on display.

Chaco_Anasazi_canteen

Chaco_Anasazi_canteen

By each piece there was a little placard that said something like “John Doe, five years”, “Sam Smith, seven years”, etc.  It turned out that was the prison sentence received for illegal grave robbery.

In the canyon there are many ruins, scattered over a wide area.

Wijiji

Wijij

Some like Wijij are  next to cliffs.

chaco canyon vista

Chaco canyon vista

Some are located out on the flat canyon bottom.

Hungo Pavi unexcavated ruin

Hungo Pavi unexcavated ruin

Many such as Hungo Pavi have never been excavated.

Stabelized Ruin

stabilized Ruin

chacoCanyon01

chacoCanyon01

Others have been stabilized by the Park Service.

Pueblo Bonito

Pueblo Bonito

Have you noticed the absence of people in the photographs?  Because the canyon is isolated and somewhat difficult to reach very few people visit there.  At least that was my experience.  I haven’t been there in some time so it may have changed.  At any rate I found it quite peaceful and spiritual.

Mesa Verde National Park

About a 150 miles north near Cortez, Colorado you can visit Mesa Verde National Park.  This is another incredibly rich area.  In telling the story of Mesa Verde, the park service writes “On a snowy December day in 1888, while ranchers Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason searched Mesa Verde’s canyons for stray cattle, they unexpectedly came upon Cliff Palace for the first time. The following year, the Wetherill brothers and Mason explored an additional 182 cliff dwellings.”  There are over 4,000 archaeological sites and over 600 cliff dwellings of the Pueblo people at the site.

Some ruins are complete ruins, like this.  I call it a “building kit”.

But many of the ruins are spectacular and they are accessible.

Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace

Mesa verde cliff dwelling

Mesa verde cliff dwelling

Some you can explore freely alone and others can be visited in ranger led tours.

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

Square Tower House

Square Tower House

Mesa Verde From Flickr user lukexmartin

Mesa Verde From Flickr user lukexmartin

Mesa Verde has picnic areas, bike trails and of course walking and hiking trails.  Its a great place to visit.

More to come

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About Thomas L. Tribby

Professional artist: painter, sculptor, print maker. Maintains a studio in West Palm Beach, Florida
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