Location, location, location
February 16, 2005 8:00 PM   Subscribe

The Chaco Culture National Historical Park (flash) encompasses a whole canyon's worth of buildings that appear to be designed to elaborately showcase the movement of the sun and the moon. And the website for the park is pretty well done. Also see the PBS-supported documentary called "The Mystery of Chaco Canyon" from the Solstice Project and a previous Metafilter discussion of archaeoastronomy.
posted by ontic (11 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have been to Chaco (Note: Not Chacno) many times and have a slew of pictures. It's a magical place. Oddly enough I haven't been back since moving to Santa Fe 2 years ago. I nearly got some aerial photos of it a few weeks ago but ran out of time and couldn't fit it in.

If you get the chance to travel this way - see the place. It's well worth taking the detour from whatever else you maybe heading to.
posted by Qubit at 9:12 PM on February 16, 2005

Even setting aside all the astro- and lunar-alignment stuff, which is very cool, this place has some of the most spectacular Anasazi ruins that I've ever seen. The first time I went, I was with a friend who was very familiar with the place, and we underestimated how long it would take from Phoenix (Chaco Canyon is REALLY far off of I-40, over dirt roads) and arrived after dark... the campground is almost in the middle of one of the old cave dwellings, it was amazing to wake up surrounded by such well-preserved ancient architecture.

Just the sheer scale of the place gives you a good sense of how sophisticated the ancient American civilizations were, and if you go with an archaelogist there are many finer points, like the evolution of masonry that you can see in the walls added at various points. An amazing site, and definitely worth a visit if you're in the Southwest at all. Seriously, this is way cooler than a day in Santa Fe (and I LIKE Santa Fe), and better than 2 days in Phoenix (gotta admit I don't like Phoenix much).
posted by rkent at 9:49 PM on February 16, 2005

Thanks ontic, that's a nicely done site I hadn't seen. I've been all over the Four Corners area — to all but five of the counties in AZ/NM/UT, and to most of the ruins now administered by the NPS. (Hovenweep is probably my favorite.) But never to Chaco — as rkent says, it's a long way off the highway. Now you've got me thinking about going back out there; it's only about 2600 miles from here.
posted by LeLiLo at 1:15 AM on February 17, 2005

Chaco is awesome. My fiancee and I spent a day and a night there this past summer on our cross-country road trip, and it was one of the most spectacular places I've ever seen. The fact that those buildings were built so long ago, with such advanced techniques, simply blows the mind.

On the astronomy front, it's also the first place I ever saw a truly amazing night sky. We turned out the light in our tent, let our eyes adjust to the darkness, and just laid on the ground looking up at the sky for a really long time. We watched satellites passing overhead. It was a pretty revelatory experience for a kid from New Jersey.
posted by schustafa at 6:51 AM on February 17, 2005

There's a nice article about Chaco in the current issue of NG: Adventure. It's not on the website yet, unfortunately.
posted by jaysus chris at 8:32 AM on February 17, 2005

I camped in Chaco canyon when I was about 16 or 17. One of the nights we stayed there, the area experienced a 500-year-flood. Part of the campground was underwater. We almost had to move our tent, but the waterline crested about 20 feet from our tent.

Anyhow, like I said, I was 16 or so and camping with my dad, brother and grandparents. I was a dorky 16 year old and probably didn't get out of the experience then what I would get out of it now.

I have nothing more to add to this conversation. And I'm not sure I added much to begin with.
posted by u2604ab at 9:31 AM on February 17, 2005

I have some Chaco desktop pictures on my website (and a few photos at Flickr).
posted by hyperizer at 9:38 AM on February 17, 2005

hyperizer: I was just looking at your pictures on flickr the other day. I was going to comment, but I couldn't pick one picture; I wish there was a way to comment on sets. There are some cool shots in there. I left Chaco with very few pictures because I was mostly wandering around with my mouth open saying "WOW!" every ten or fifteen seconds.
posted by schustafa at 11:19 AM on February 17, 2005

Wow. Thanks, ontic. I'd never heard of Chaco before, but now I've got another thing to add to my "places I must see" list.
posted by aine42 at 12:28 PM on February 17, 2005

Thanks for the compliments! I've got more photos, but I just posted some highlights. I took them on a visit in August 2003.
posted by hyperizer at 12:51 PM on February 17, 2005

the first place I ever saw a truly amazing night sky

Yep, for me, that was 175 miles away, as the crow flies, at Great Sand Dunes Nat'l Park and Preserve. Camping at the private campground just outside the entrance, I had that oh-my-god experience you can only have when you spend the first 21 years of your life in humid climes & then look up to see the heavens in all their dark beauty. At first I thought the Milky Way was a cloud! The stars I'd ever seen much of before were so blazingly preeminent among the countless others I'd never known that it was no mystery humans should have demanded their stories. Ah...
posted by Zurishaddai at 8:05 PM on February 17, 2005

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