Unfortunately, vandalism, theft of artifacts and damage to fragile ecological sites and structures is a huge problem for our National Parks. Many thousands of ancient archeological ruins and burial sites are scattered across America's Southwest, and constant wind, rain and ice erosion often uncover bones and artifacts that provide valuable clues about the people who once lived there. It's important that they're left in place for study by trained archeologists, or to be re-buried by tribal descendants according to their customs.
Some well-meaning visitors retrieve artifacts and turn them in to park officials - thinking they're doing a good deed by keeping them out of the hands of thieves. Others unknowingly climb or sit on crumbling walls because there's no sign telling them not to, or they're non-English speaking and can't read posted warnings (unfortunately, almost always in English).
Fines for pocketing artifacts are very high!! A good rule of thumb is if you run across one, leave it alone or make a note of where you saw it, what you think it might be and report it to one of the rangers. They'll be grateful and will send someone to record the find and retrieve it, if necessary. Gently show others who may not understand that they shouldn't be sitting, walking or climbing on something fragile. And by all means, if you see anyone willfully defacing or vandalizing park property, find a ranger immediately and turn the culprits in!!!
- National/State Park
Sacred, wild and fragile
Many of today's pueblos trace their heritage to the Chacoans, and the canyon is considered an ancestral home. It isn't just a place where people lived but worshiped, died and were buried so the ruins are considered sacred ground. They ask that you please treat them with respect and don't enter areas that are roped off or not clearly marked as permissible to explore.
Chaco has its share of small critters; don't feed them, and watch for rattlesnakes! Don't worry about those too much as they don't really like people so are unlikely to be sunning on well-traveled trails but you never know.
If hiking trails above the canyon, stay on the the paths - away from possibly unstable edges - and off prehistoric stairways.
Leave nothing but footprints and take away nothing but pictures and memories of this beautiful, fragile place!
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Chaco is hot and dry, be prepared!
If you are planning on doing any walking in the park, be sure you are prepared. Take lots of water, proper walking shoes, and a hat or sunglasses.
Drinking water is available at the visitors center.