Reed's Photography | Chaco Culture Natural Historical Park
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Chaco Culture Natural Historical Park

September 05, 2014  •  4 Comments

Wikitravel describes Chaco Culture National Historical Park as "a major unit of the United States National Park system located within Navajo Nation in northwest New Mexico."  I have always known the area as 'Chaco Canyon' and have always wanted to travel there. Chaco Canyon preserves ancestral pueblos of prehistoric American Indian tribes.  It has been on my travel list for many years, since friends have repeatedly told me it was a 'must see.'  In October of 2012, Mary and I started our trip to Chaco Canyon.  She talked with me for quite some time about camping in the area.  I've done my share of camping and it is not exactly what I live for these days, but knowing that Chaco Canyon lies 17 miles northwest of any paved road, I figured it was the only option.  We purchased all new equipment before leaving, thank goodness for Walmart!  I did not want to go high end because I felt there was a good chance this might be the one, and only, time we used the equipment.  We purchased food and other supplies in Albuquerque before heading to the park on New Mexico highway 550.  Shortly after leaving highway 550 we hit 17 miles of the roughest gravel washboard roads I have ever been on.  No AAA out here!


We arrived and set up camp in the designated camping area.  You can see me in the left side of the photo keeping first watch for any hostile Indians.  This had to be one of the most remote areas I have ever camped.  The Park Rangers, whom I usually find to be friendly, were somewhat distant.  I got the feeling they did not want us there.  Perhaps they were upset about being assigned to a park in the middle of nowhere.  Regardless, we rarely met them during our stay.


This was one of the first photographs I took of the ruins, and yes, the sky was really that blue.  It's a difficult area to photograph because everything is the same color.  I asked one of the Park Rangers if I could take photos of a certain area before sunrise, but apparently this was allowed.  He kindly explained the fine for passing the gate before 7:00 a.m.  

I found black and white to be the best medium to photograph the ruins.  The contrast of the black and white shows the details of the architecture better than color photos.


This photo depicts one of the largest kivas in the park.  Most kivas are round, much smaller in size, and do not have any structures inside. Again, the contrast of black and white provides a great view.  


As you can see from the size of the wall, this was a thriving community at one time.







There were numerous pictographs throughout the park.  After a 3.5 mile hike during mid-afternoon temperatures in the high 90's, we finally reached the last pictograph known as the "Super Nova".  Mary and I both had water and good hiking boots, but after the 7.0 mile round-trip hike we both had blisters from walking in sand as fine as baby powder.  These are two photos of the "Super Nova".


What's unusual about these particular pictographs is they are red in color, where all others we had seen were just etched into the rock. They are in remarkable condition located just underneath an outcrop of rock. This provided a great deal of protection from the weather over the years.  


Some of the local wildlife hanging around the camp.  Below are some photos of our camp.  



The next photo is not only my favorite of the trip, but one of my most favorite photos so far.


I shot this photo just after sunrise.  It was extremely cold, so we decided to drive to the ruins just to warm up in the truck.  The environment was typical desert with hot afternoons and freezing nights.  Despite a few hardships, we had a great trip!  If it's something you are interested in, I would encourage you to make the trip.  My only warning would be to think twice before taking children, especially small children, to this area.  There are many things here that sting, bite or stick you.  Not to mention you are miles from medial care.  



Sonya Dicks(non-registered)
OMG Kelly, those are absolutely breath taking! Thanks for sharing.
Candy howard(non-registered)
I have never heard of these ruins, and they are just beautiful! It looks to be a site of large size, and it makes me think about what strength it took many years ago to build the fortress..amazing! Keep sending these to me!!
Did you ever see snakes??
Katherine Irwin(non-registered)
Kelly, thanks so much for posting your photos. I is almost like we can travel with you to places we would never go otherwise. The photos are beautiful. Hope you continue to travel and post. Thanks, Kathy
Ruth and Jerry Amos(non-registered)
This park is beautiful, architecturally amazing, and looks like y'all had a good time. We would have been afraid of snakes crawling at night! Such a remote place -- am sure you will never forget this camping experience. Thank you for all the pictures you took. We'll continue to camp in our old 1992 Foretravel motorhome. Thanks for sharing.
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