Nature & Science
In addition to its spectacular archaeological resources, the park is naturally significant as one of the few protected areas in the San Juan Basin. It is an island of biodiversity, home to plants and wildlife that have been significantly affected by grazing, mineral extraction, and other land-use activities in the surrounding area.
The fauna found here includes elk, deer, bobcats, rabbits, badgers, porcupines, bats, snakes, lizards and other amphibians, and diverse bird populations. A number of ecosystems comprise the canyon vegetation, including pinyon-juniper woodlands, riparian with cottonwood and willow, and other numerous scrub and wildflower communities.
NPS Photo by Marshall G. Clayton
Scientific research in the park is ongoing and often overlaps projects concerning the cultural resources. Studies are as varied as fossil inventories, native plant surveys, annual bird counts, and rock monitoring.
Did You Know?
Archeologist Patricia Crown discovered evidence of cacao in a cylinder jar from Chaco! This may be the earliest importation and use of cocoa north of where it is grown. Cacao is now processed into chocolate, but the Mayans and (later) the Chacoans may have consumed a bitter beverage. More...