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Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Between the years 900 and 1150, this canyon was a major cultural center for the Ancient Pueblo People. Located in northwestern New Mexico, this remote site contains what has been called the most sweeping collection of ancient ruins in the United States, as well as the nation’s most important pre-Columbian cultural centers.

Using quarried sandstone blocks and timber hauled great distances, ancient residents created hundreds of homes and community meeting places. Today, visitors can see some of the more than 2,400 prehistoric ruins and sites, though only a relative handful have been excavated. There are 15 major complexes which remained the largest buildings into North America until the 19th century; one of the buildings is four stories tall.

A scenic drive leads from the park entry to some of the most impressive and easily-accessible sites, many of which are aligned to capture solar and lunar cycles, reflecting skillful construction and generations of astronomical observations. Major sites include Penasco Blanco, Pueblo del Arroyo, and the Pueblo Alto Complex. The most studied site is Pueblo Bonito. There are also subterranean kivas, ancient stairways carved into rock, and segments of ancient roadways. The visitors’ center includes exhibits, explanations, and preserved oral history.