Visiting Chaco Canyon

Hallway of Doorways

Hallway of doorways at Pueblo Bonito. Click to enlarge.

By Thatcher Rogers, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse

The weekend field trip to Chaco Canyon began splendidly with an informative visit to Zuni. Due to purchasing a large number of zoomorphic figures associated with water, we were unfortunately deterred by rains from accomplishing our original goal of staying overnight at Chaco. After spending the night in Farmington, NM, we were met early by Paul Reed—our guide to the ruins at Chaco who regaled us with information not found in any pamphlet or upon any plaque. Surviving the madness that was the dirt road into Chaco, traversed by none other than our instructor Leslie Aragon, we began our foray into the exceptional beauty that is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the prehistoric Southwest.

Beginning at Hungo Pavi, we got our first taste of Chacoan architecture, and Paul Reed gave us a brief overview of the interpretative debate surrounding the Chacoan phenomenon.

Paul Reed

Paul Reed discussing the Chacoan phenomenon.

After visiting several other Great Houses, seeing some pictographs, and being stunned by the disheartening lack of artifacts present on the ground as a result of years of looting, we arrived at potentially the most famous archaeological site in the United States—Pueblo Bonito. As we traversed through the doorways and peered into the many kivas present, awe was constantly expressed on each of our faces.

Pueblo Bonito Overlook

Field school students posing in front of the spectacular view at the Pueblo Bonito Overlook.

A quick lunch allowed for a break before we hiked up a trail built into a rock wall that would lead us to the Pueblo Bonito Overlook. Reaching the end of the stairwell, the geology and geography of the surrounding landscape overtook us. A 20-minute hike later and we reached the overlook point, where we took the mandatory photos of just the T.A.s and the students. Although we saw much on the visit to Chaco, it was perhaps this view that was the most spectacular, and the one that will linger the longest in our memories.

Field School TAs at Pueblo Bonito Overlook

Field school TAs enjoying the overlook point.

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