Chaco Culture

World Heritage Site #104: Chaco Culture
Chaco Culture: My 104th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for Chaco Culture:

For over 2,000 years, Pueblo peoples occupied a vast region of the south-western United States. Chaco Canyon, a major center of ancestral Pueblo culture between 850 and 1250, was a focus for ceremonials, trade and political activity for the prehistoric Four Corners area. Chaco is remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial buildings and its distinctive architecture – it has an ancient urban ceremonial center that is unlike anything constructed before or since. In addition to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the World Heritage property includes the Aztec Ruins National Monument and several smaller Chaco sites managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Along with Mesa Verde, Chaco Culture is one of the best examples of ancient culture in the United States. Getting to Chaco Culture National Historic Monument is a bit of a challenge. It is a very remote site that required at least 20 miles of travel over unpaved roads. If it has been recently raining, forget about visiting.

Overview

Chaco Culture

The Chaco Culture National Historic Park is a unit of the US National Park Service in New Mexico. With a size of nearly 34,000 acres in land area, this park was recognized into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1987. An average of about 40,000 tourists visit the park each year.

Chaco Culture offers the most exceptional and densest concentration of pueblos in the American Southwest region. It is located in a remote canyon that was cut by the Chaco Wash. It is home to the most impressive collection of ancient ruins, specifically from the Chaco culture, in this part of the continent.

How to Get Here

Chaco Culture

There are several methods to get to the Chaco Culture Monument. If you are bringing your own car, please do note that some of the roads that are recommended by GPS services are unsafe to travel on. But to get to Chaco Culture, you must travel on dirt roads. You can travel via Highway 57 or via Pueblo Pintado. Be extra careful during your drive as the roads leading to the park are infrequently maintained and are therefore in poor condition.

If you are traveling from outside of the state or country, you must book a flight to any of the airports in Albuquerque, Farmington or Durango, Colorado. Since there is no public transportation to and within the park, bringing your own vehicle is recommended.

About Chaco Culture

Chaco Culture

From AD 900 to 1150, Chaco Canyon served as the center of the Ancient Pueblo People’s culture. The local Chacoans hauled timber and sandstone blocks to build their dwellings and other structures at that time. Throughout the history of settlement in the region, they were able to produce 15 major complexes (some of which are still preserved until today).

The buildings, aside from the impressive ancient construction methods and their longevity, also provided a glimpse into the history and culture of the Chaco Culture. These buildings were formed to in line with the solar and lunar cycles. Hence, it took the Ancient Puebloans several centuries to be able to make accurate astronomic observations that went into the construction of these buildings.

The Chaco Culture monument and its ruins are located in some of the most arid and sparsely populated areas of the Four Corners region in the US. Hence, the Chaco Culture sites are considered fragile. Since they are considered sacred to the Hopi and Pueblo people, the site was established as a national park in order to reinforce the efforts at preserving what is left of this culture and ancient pueblo community that once inhabited this part of the US. To this day, efforts are being done in order to preserve the oral accounts of their history and culture, along with their spiritual relationship with the land.

The most important and largest Chacoan complexes are located within the central canyon region of the park. The Pueblo Bonito is the most studied out of these complexes. This structure alone covers nearly 2 acres in land area. Some parts of this structure are four stories high. Other notable structures that belong to the said complex include Pueblo del Arroyo, Casa Rinconada, Kin Kietso, and Pueblo Alto. More clusters of great houses are located at the outliers portion of the park.


View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2017 @ 8:55 pm

Mesa Verde National Park

World Heritage Site #103: Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park: My 103rd UNESCO World Heritage Site and my 12th US National Park

From the World Heritage inscription for Mesa Verde National Park:

A great concentration of ancestral Pueblo Indian dwellings, built from the 6th to the 12th century, can be found on the Mesa Verde plateau in southwest Colorado at an altitude of more than 2,600 m. Some 4,400 sites have been recorded, including villages built on the Mesa top. There are also imposing cliff dwellings, built of stone and comprising more than 100 rooms.

Mesa Verde is another really under-appreciated national park. While is is one of the first national parks in the US, it is a cultural attraction, not a natural one. In fact, North America is seriously lacking in ancient structures (due do the nomadic nature of the original inhabitants) and Mesa Verde is one of the finest.

Overview

Mesa Verde National Park

The Mesa Verde National Park is a US national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is located in Montezuma County in Colorado. The park was established in 1906 and covers a total land area of 52,485 acres. However, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 for its cultural significance. It is also listed as one of the properties included in the US National Register of Historic Places.

The Mesa Verde National Park was established to protect the Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites, which is one of the largest and most important in the entire United States. There are 600 cliff dwellings and over 4,000 archaeological sites found within this property – this makes it the largest archaeological preserve in the US Mesa Verde. The Cliff Palace is the most notable attraction within the park. It is the continent’s largest cliff dwelling.

About Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park was officially designated its current status as a national park in 1906 by US President Theodore Roosevelt. Its earliest history can be traced back to the 7500 BCE wherein the region was inhabited by nomadic Paleo-Indians that called the Foothills Mountain complex their home. A few years later, Archaic people established settlement within the rock shelters in the area, particularly near the mesa. The Ancient Puebloans, however, were the ones who settled in the region the longest and have created the most impact on the land. It is their dwellings that are currently preserved along with the other archaeological preserves in the area.

In order to survive, the Mesa Verdeans hunted local small game. They also organized hunting parties that traveled long distance to find a catch. This way of life can be glimpsed into by some of the archaeological remains and ruins within the site of the UNESCO property. These hunting tools, their dwellings, and pottery provided a glimpse into the way of life for the Ancestral Puebloans.

In addition to the cliff dwellings, there were also rock art and murals that were discovered on the area. The dispersion of these rock arts was uneven and periodic though. Some areas will have numerous rock art while the other areas have none. In addition, the styles of the rock art also varied greatly. This exhibits the possibility of the many different inhabitants that have settled in the region.

Know Before You Go

Mesa Verde National Park

Before you plan a visit to the Mesa Verde National Park, here are a few basic information you need to know:

  • The Mesa Verde National Park is unique because it is the only one of its kind that aims to preserve the villages and objects that were created by ancient civilizations.
  • If you want to explore the park, you can use the following towns as your headquarters: Dolores, Cortez and Mancos. All of these have lodging options, restaurants and a few basic facilities you can use during your stay.
  • The park is open daily and all year round.
  • The park features mostly temperate weather, which is typical of the Southwest Colorado region.
  • There are up to 10 designated hiking trails within the park for tourists to explore
  • There are 17 days in a year wherein you can access the park for free. It is during the National Park Week, National Park Service’s birthday, National Public Lands Day and the Veterans Day. Make sure you check the dates for these holidays prior to your visit.
  • The park has its Cortez Cultural Center that is open for tourists who want to view displays and exhibits that provide information about the present-day tribes that once inhabit the region included within the UNESCO property.
  • The Mesa Verde National Park is a birder’s paradise with up to 200 species of birds.
  • Aside from the bird species, there is also a hefty amount of plant species in the area. There are over 600 plant species that inhabit the property covered by the park.
  • There are over 5,00 ancient dwellings and archaeological sites found within the park’s cliffs and cave systems.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2017 @ 8:55 pm