Wilderness Volunteers: 2017 Chaco Culture National Historic Park Service Trip
The Four Corners region of northern New Mexico is famous for its abundance of ruins of prehistoric Native American villages. Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Center site, is the crown jewel, representing the highest point of pre-Columbian pueblo civilization. It contains 13 major archaeological sites, including the famous Pueblo Bonito, an 800-room half-moon shaped pueblo structure with extraordinary patterned stone masonry. Across the canyon, the smaller ruin of Casa Rinconanda holds the magnificent restored "great kiva," which, because of its size, might have served as a ceremonial chamber for the entire community. At its peak, Chaco Canyon was thought to have held a population of 5,000. Several of the structures were built with features in alignment with astronomical events such as the rising sun at summer and winter solstices. While exploring the ruins scattered along the six miles of Chaco Canyon, a hiker is struck by the power and mystery of the advanced civilization that once flourished there.
Although a national park, Chaco is fairly remote and lightly visited, thus offering an opportunity for seclusion and solitude. Miles of dirt road make it difficult for the casual tourist to reach.
Our service project included assisting the National Park Service in routine trail maintenance on trails throughout the park. This entailed cleaning and creation of water-bars, invasive plant removal, and improvement of check-dams. We camped in a designated campground within the park, and spent our free day hiking and exploring remote archaeological sites.
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2017 Chaco Culture National Historical Park