Chaco Canyon

Stephen Fischer Photography

Chaco Canyon is an extensive complex of Anasazi ruins of northwest New Mexico.  I visited this location in April of 2010 as part of bigger trip through much of the former Anasazi territory including Mesa Verde, Cedar Mesa, and Monument Valley.  What strikes you first when encountering the location is the vastnesss and size of the various ruins found here in such a remote and desolate location.  It is the largest complex of native ruins in North America.  At the hub of Chaco Canyon is the enormous multi-story stone structure Pueblo Bonito, that at the time was about 4 stories high.  It is estimated the stone structures in this area were developed between 900 and 1200 AD. In the end the entire city was mysteriously abandoned.  Most believe this was due to the population ultimately exceeding the environmental capacity, as aggrevated with some mismanagement of the land and its streams in a non-sustainable way, at a time when the region was undergoing a severe drought that lasted decades.  There is a book I recommend ("Collapse" by Jared Diamond) that does a case study on this ancient civilization (and others) and posits the factors that led to its collapse.  There are some lessons from this book that very well should be heeded today if we not to repeat some of the same mistakes.


One infamous early anglo settler to the Anasazi region was a cowboy by the name of Richard Wetherill who claimed this area as his homestead, and then proceeded to excavate the site, hauling out many of the ancient artifacts, and without adequate accounting or recording of their orgin or destination. He has been demonized by modern archelogists for his methods and motives, with the federal government passing the aniquities act to help better preserve such ruins in the future. Ultimately Richard Wetherill was killed by local indians after getting in a dispute over a horse he claims was stolen.  His gravesite is located nearby and shown in one of the images below.  If you want to learn more about this story and get a richer background on the Anasazi, including information on the region and hiking among these ruins, then I also recommend the book: "In Search of the Old Ones" by David Roberts.


Below is a gallery sampling of some of the images I captured on this visit.  During this time, the weather was somewhat turbulent, kicking up some dust.  Although not as pleasant to be in, strangely it ended up being to some benefit for photography during the middle of the day to help soften the light.


All content and images are property of Stephen Fischer Photography, copyright 2011.   Last updated: 4/3/2011