Master Plan
Chaco Canyon National Monument, New Mexico
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Chaco Canyon National Monument is located in northwestern New Mexico, some 45 airline miles southeast of Farmington and 57 miles northeast of Gallup. In addition to the main section of the monument along Chaco Canyon, there are six small detached areas from 6 to 40 miles to the south, southeast, and southwest.


Major highways serving the general area are New Mexico State Route 44, which passes some 20 airline miles to the northeast of the monument; U.S. 666 which is some 40 miles to the west; and Interstate 40 (U.S. Route 66) about 50 miles to the south.

Access to the monument from the south and west is generally by way of Crownpoint, which can be reached by paved road from both U.S. 666 and Interstate 40. From Crownpoint to the monument, access is provided by 40 miles of low-standard graded dirt road (Indian Service Routes 9 and 14). The road then passes through the central portion of the monument and continues 28 miles further, as State Route 56, to connect with State Route 44 at the Blanco Trading Post.

About 6.5 miles north of the monument, Indian Service Route 45 branches off State Route 56 and connects with State Route 44 at Nageesi. This provides a slightly shorter alternate access from the north. Because it has recently been gravelled, it is generally a little better road during wet weather, when travel on State Route 56 is sometimes quite difficult.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has recently paved Indian Service Route 9 from U.S. 666, north of Gallup, to Crownpoint and plans to continue paving this route eastward to Torreon and Cuba. When completed this will reduce the amount of unpaved access from the south to approximately 20 miles.

Indian Service Route 9 between Crownpoint and Torreon passes within a mile of the detached Pueblo Pintado section of the monument. Therefore, the paving of Route 9 will also greatly facilitate access to this prehistoric site.

Paving of State Route 371 from Crownpoint north to Farmington by way of Bisti is now underway. This route will pass approximately 4 miles west of the detached Kin Biniola Section of the monument and approximately 15 miles west of the South entrance to the monument.

The detached Kin Ya-ah Section is located approximately 2-1/2 miles southeast of Crownpoint and is within one mile of the paved Crownpoint-Thoreau Highway.

The detached Kin Klizhin Section is accessible only by an existing unimproved truck trail, and the ruin-less Casa Morena Section is still essentially inaccessible.

Commercial transportation service to the area is limited. The most practical means is by rental cars, which are available at Farmington (60 miles), Gallup (90 miles), or Albuquerque (150 miles). Air and bus service are available at all three of these cities and passenger rail service is available at Gallup and Albuquerque. Bus service is also available at Blanco Trading Post and Nageesi and bus and rail service is available at Thoreau, but there is at present no reliable way of reaching the monument from these points.


Chaco Canyon National Monument is located in a sparsely populated section of the country. According to the 1960 census there were less than 50,000 residents within a 50-mile radius. Within a 100-mile radius there were approximately 366,000 residents and within 150 miles there were just over 550,000.

Regional Map. (click on image for a PDF version)

Park and Recreation Facilities

The only recreation facility within a 50-mile radius is the Bureau of Land Management's Angel Peak Recreation Area located approximately 30 miles north of the monument. However, within a 100-mile radius there are a great many Federal, State, and Tribal recreational developments.

The more important include:

Mesa Verde National Park
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Aztec Ruins National Monument
Bandelier National Monument
Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
El Morro National Monument
Navajo Lake State Park (Recreation Area)
Bluewater Lakes State Park
(8 miles southeast of Thoreau)
Coronado State Monument
(20 miles north of Albuquerque)
El Vado State Park
(40 miles north of Cuba)
Jemez State Monument
(20 miles southeast of Cuba)
Three Turkey Ruin Tribal Park (Navajo)
(5 miles south of Canyon de Chelley National Monument)
Zuni Tribal Park (Zuni)
(20 miles southwest of Gallup)

The Four Corners (only spot in United States where four states come together) is 92 miles northwest of Chaco Canyon.

Numerous camping and recreational developments exist in the following national forests which are located some 50 or more miles to the north and east.

Santa Fe National Forest
(north and east of Cuba)
Cibola National Forest
(south and east of Thoreau)
San Juan National Forest
(north of Durango)
Carson National Forest
(east of Aztec)

Surroundings and Existing Use

Chaco Canyon National Monument is located in the rather barren desert lands of northwestern New Mexico. In general, this country is rough to rolling, with numerous mesas, buttes, and steep-walled arroyos. Vegetation is sparse—mostly low desert shrubs and grass, with occasional pinyon and juniper on the higher elevations.

The monument is approximately 12 miles east of the Navajo Reservation. North of the monument is the "checkerboard" area in which sections of public domain given to Navajo allotments alternate with former railroad sections now in private ownership or with sections retained in Federal or State ownership. Throughout this area the Navajo Tribe has purchased, leased, or otherwise acquired an interest in approximately 200,000 acres of land which is being developed as Navajo ranches. Although there are a great many small Indian allotments in the area, most of the additional lands being acquired are being retained in tribal ownership.

Practically all of the surrounding lands are utilized for the grazing of cattle, sheep, and goats. Considerable efforts are being made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Navajo Tribe, and the Bureau of Land Management to improve grazing conditions by clearing brush, seeding, developing water, and eliminating overuse.

Oil and gas leases are held on most of the lands and there are a great many producing wells in the vicinity. A major producing area is the Bisti development, approximately 20 miles northwest of the monument. In recent months the Red Mesa area, approximately 10 miles southeast of the monument, has shown great promise.

A shallow but extensive coal deposit along the San Juan River a few miles west of Farmington is being strip-mined and utilized in a steam generating plant. Coal deposits apparently exist under most of this area, including the monument. At the present time, its removal in this area is apparently not economically feasible.

A 110,000-acre irrigation project is being developed about 30 miles north of the monument. Water for this project is being made available from the recently completed Navajo Reservoir on the upper reaches of the San Juan River.

Regional Analysis

The semi-arid northwest corner of New Mexico, in which Chaco Canyon National Monument is located, is but sparsely populated. Although mining activities are carried out in several scattered locations and irrigation farming activities are increasing along the San Juan River, the bulk of the region is utilized only for grazing—a condition which is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. The existing urban centers of Grants, Gallup, Farmington, and Durango are expected to grow at a normal rate, with occasional fluctuations due to mining activities in the region. The major population center of Albuquerque is subject to a great many other factors and is expected to continue to increase at a higher-than-average rate.

The bulk of the outdoor recreational needs of the regional population is currently being handled by the national forests and state parks which are located in the mountainous areas some 50 to 60 miles to the north, south, and east of the monument. These facilities also serve a large segment of the population of southeastern New Mexico and western Texas, where such resources and facilities are not readily available.

On a broader basis, Chaco Canyon is located on the eastern edge of the Colorado Plateau country, a vast region which is noted for its outstanding scenery, its diverse recreational opportunities, and its rich archeological and historical values. This region, which encompasses southeast Utah, southwestern Colorado, northern Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico, contains an incredible number of outstanding features, many of which are being preserved as units of the National Park System. This includes Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Petrified Forest, and Mesa Verde National Parks; Cedar Breaks, Capitol Reef, Arches, Natural Bridges, Yucca House, Rainbow Bridge, Hovenweep, Aztec Ruins, Pipe Spring, Canyon de Chelly, Wupatki, Sunset Crater, Colorado, El Morro, Walnut Canyon, and Chaco Canyon National Monuments; Glen Canyon National Recreation Area; and Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site.

This region is as richly endowed with features of outstanding interest as any in the country. As its resources become better known and more easily accessible, there is little doubt that this region will attract increasing numbers of visitors from all over the nation and develop into a recreational complex of the very highest order. Chaco Canyon National Monument, with its superlative archeological values, would be a key element in any such complex. Although many of the areas within this region will provide for purely recreational activities, recreation at Chaco Canyon will be primarily for the purposes of sightseeing and the enjoyment of archeological values.

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Last Updated: 16-Apr-2010