October 2011 was the first time that I stopped at Pueblo del Arroyo. I had only done the sites on the Chaco loop road on my previous visit. There is a short, spur road off the far northwest end of the 9-mile loop road. At the end there is a parking lot with trailheads to the Wetherill Cemetery, Pueblo del Arroyo, and the Penasco Blanco / Pueblo Alto trails. Pueblo del Arroyo is a classic D-shaped great house located next to Chaco Wash ~250 meters west of Pueblo Bonito. It differs from other great houses in the canyon because it was not built near the northern cliff face and is oriented to the east rather than to the south.
Parts of the great house were originally four stories, and it had roughly 125 ground floor rooms. With approximately 300 total rooms and 17 kivas, it is the fourth largest of the Chacoan great houses. Construction occurred in discrete episodes, with initial activity occurring during the 1060's A.D. with additions into the first decades of the 12th century. After completion of the main roomblock, a tri-wall structure was added to the great house in the 1100's. While tri-walls occur at other sites in the Southwest (notably Aztec Ruins), Pueblo del Arroyo is the only structure in Chaco Canyon to have one.
Pueblo del Arroyo was undergoing some restoration in October 2011. It is an interesting site and definitely photogenic. See also a travelogue, Scenes at Pueblo del Arroyo.
Casa Rinconada is an isolated great kiva located on top of a ridge on the southern side of the canyon directly across from Pueblo Bonito. It is located within a cluster of small house sites. Two of the closest are Bc 58, 290 feet (85 m) to the northeast, and Bc 50, 290 feet (85 m) to the east. Although the great kiva is not associated with a great house, there are a group of masonry rooms attached to the perimeter, including a one-room antechamber to the south and an antechamber and three to six connected rooms to the north. A few additional rooms also are attached on the east and west, possibly indicating a series of rooms that originally encircled the kiva.
Casa Rinconada has an average interior diameter of 63 feet (19.2 m). It contains all features generally associated with great kivas including a firebox, an inner bench, four large seating pits that served as roof supports, two masonry vaults/foot drums, and 34 niches encircling the great kiva. In addition, the kiva includes a 39 foot (12 m) underground passage, three feet deep and almost three feet wide, entering the room from the northern antechamber. The underground passage would have allowed Chacoans, perhaps ritual specialists, to enter the great kiva unseen and then suddenly emerge. See also a travelogue, Scenes at Casa Rinconada Great Kiva.
Talus Unit is a small structure composed of east and west room blocks located against the cliff behind the back wall of Chetro Ketl. Two rooms connect the east and west room blocks, which rise three-stories at the cliff base and terrace towards the front. Tree-ring dates indicate construction mainly occurred between A.D. 1060-70, although lintels from a single doorway in the east building date to the early 1030's. Talus Unit got its name because of its location at the foot of the cliff by an accumulation of fallen rock debris, i.e., talus. Two rooms in the east block served as a landing for ladders providing access to a Chacoan stairway and handholds carved into the cliff. These steps led to a road connecting with Pueblo Alto. In the main photo, Kiva C2 is on the left, Kiva B in the center left, and Kiva A on the center right. The Chacoan stairway to Pueblo Alto is in the center background.
Hungo Pavi is the first stop on the Chaco loop road. It is an unexcavated great house located about 1.8 miles (2.9 km.) southeast of Pueblo Bonito at the mouth of Mockingbird Canyon. According to the Chaco Research Archives, the site contains approximately 140 rooms. The north roomblock includes three rows of rooms and stood at least three-stories tall along the rear wall, dropping to a single story along the plaza. The structure is D-shaped with a single row of rooms enclosing the plaza. Two kivas have been identified; a central, elevated kiva within the north roomblock and a great kiva in the plaza. It was constructed during the late 10th to early 11th centuries, with additions in the middle of the 11th century.
Chacoans were definitely skywatchers. Fajada Butte has six petroglyphs including the Sun Dagger, a carving of a "rattlesnake", other spirals, and a rectangle that are conspicuously lit by contrasts between sunbeams and shadows during equinoxes or solstices. Public access to the butte was stopped in 1989 when erosion from modern foot traffic was found to be responsible for one of the three screening slabs at the Sun Dagger site shifting out of its ancient position. The Sun Dagger assemblage of stones has thus lost some of its former spatial and temporal precision as a solar and lunar calendar. In 1990 the screens were stabilized and placed under observation, but the wayward slab was not moved back into its original orientation.
The butte is 135 meters high. The remains of a 95 meter high, 230 meter long ramp were found on the southwestern face of the butte. Note that the thin black seam is lignite coal separating the lower Menefee Formation from the Cliff House Sandstone layer above it. An abundance of ripple marks and a wide variety of fossils are visible in the latter layer. The fossils include shells and casts from clams, ammonites, snails, and shark's teeth.
There is quite an extensive history of Chaco Culture. I cannot list it all here, but from the National Park Service website, I obtained the following information:
AD 850 to 1250
Chaco Canyon served as a major urban center of ancestral Puebloan culture. Remarkable for its monumental public and ceremonial buildings, engineering projects, astronomy, artistic achievements, and distinctive architecture, it served as a hub of ceremony, trade, and administration for the prehistoric Four Corners area for 400 years--unlike anything before or since.
1250 to Present
Members of affiliated clans and religious societies from Hopi and the Pueblos of New Mexico continued to return to Chaco on pilgrimages to honor their ancestral homelands.
Well, it's about a 16 mile trip on a dirt road to get to Chaco Canyon. The road is good, but can be rutted at times. It makes for an exciting ride for your kids in the back of a minivan :-)
The Canyon itself is quite wide, with the surroundings being very remote. It is absolutely wonderful to stand and view the blue skies with the canyon walls rising the the ruins sitting dormant, ready for exploration.
As most of the pictures are regarding the ruins, I consider them to all be must see activities!
Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers