• Overlooking Chetro Ketl

    Chaco Culture

    National Historical Park New Mexico

There are park alerts in effect.
show Alerts »
  • Kin Bineola and Kin Ya' a Great Houses CLOSED

    There is no public access.

  • Reservations required to attend equinox sunrise program

    To attend the equinox sunrise program on Monday, September 22 call the visitor center at 505-786-7014. Program will be limited to 100 participants.

Featured Wildlife

 
Mexican spadefoot

Mexican spadefoot toad

Photo courtesy of Gary Nafis

The mating call of the Mexican spadefoot toad is only heard during the summer monsoon season. For most of the year, this animal lays buried beneath the sands of Chaco's arid landscape; the toads can survive underground for over a year if necessary. When the heavy rains of July and August form small, temporary pools of water, the toads rehydrate in the nearest puddle and eat voraciously. The males begin calling for the females while floating on the water. The female lays over 1,000 eggs.

 
jet frog

Jet frog artifact excavated from Pueblo Bonito

Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History

In 42 to 48 hours, the tadpoles emerge and begin feeding. Their only chance of survival is to develop into a frog before the puddle dries up. In one of the fastest development rates for all amphibians, Mexican spadefoot toads metamorphosize from tadpole to juvenile in two to three weeks. As the pools of water dry, the juveniles move away and continue to feed at night, burrowing into the sand or under rocks during the day. Like the adults, the juveniles stay in a summer burrow and feed at night as long as the rainy season continues. Eventually, both adults and juveniles will dig a winter burrow and stay there until the next summer's rainy season begins.

The calls of these toads would have been celebrated by the Ancestral Puebloan people living in Chaco Canyon 1,000 years ago. These amphibians are revered creatures. They are a symbol of life-giving rain, a blessing from the ancestors. Archaeologists found scores of frogs carved out of jet and turquoise buried in the rooms of Pueblo Bonito and other Great Houses.

 

Did You Know?

Photo of a conch trumpet

A thousand years ago when Chaco was flourishing, you could hear the loud sounds of sea shell trumpets echoing off the canyon walls. The people traded for conch shells with groups along trade routes that stretched deep into present-day Mexico and the Gulf of California. More...