Master Plan
Chaco Canyon National Monument, New Mexico
NPS Logo



One of the major problems at Chaco Canyon National Monument concerns lands and the monument boundary—a problem dating back to the proclamations which established the monument. Of primary concern is the fact that certain lands containing significant archeological values still remain either outside the monument boundary or inside the monument, but in private ownership. At the same time, certain lands in the monument are not of significant archeological value, having been included by mistake.

Specific land needs and proposed boundary adjustments are discussed briefly below:

Principal Chaco Canyon Tract

The only inholding in the principal monument area is the NE1/4, Section 4, T.21N., R.11W., N.M.P.M., now owned by the Navajo Tribe. Because this tract contains a portion of the Penasco Blanco Ruin—one of the major ruins in the monument—this land should be acquired as soon as possible.

Shabik'eshchee Ruin—This ruin, which lies partly in and partly out of the monument, is a Basketmaker village which was excavated by Dr. F. H. H. Roberts of the Smithsonian Institute in 1927. Although the site is well removed from the regular visitor use area, it is often visited by southwestern anthropologists who wish to see the locale of one of the great, definitive, southwestern excavations. The ruin is located on top of one of the numerous narrow projections of the south rim of the canyon in the southeast corner of the monument. The land to be added to the monument in order to protect the balance of this site is described as: N1/2NE1/4NW1/4 of Section 36. T.21N., R10W.

Ancient remodeling work. Original large T-doorway was partially closed and subsequently completely closed, but with a small storage alcove. Note prehistoric plaster and socket holes for floor beams of this second story room. (Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History)

In the western portion of the monument there are several parcels which lack archeological values and should be deleted from the monument. These include NW1/4, Section 4; NW1/4, Section 8; and Sections 19, 20, and 30, T.21N., R.11W., N.M.P.M. The first parcel mentioned lies partly on the flood plain of the Chaco River and partly on the opposite bank. The second parcel lies almost entirely on the flood plain and the remaining lands lie to the south and east of the river. For the most part these latter lands are relatively flat, sparsely vegetated and contain no significant archeological values.

It is apparent from the map which accompanied the original proclamation that the long narrow projection of land extending southwest of the Chaco-Escavada Wash junction was included in the monument primarily to take in the Kin-Klat-Tzin (now Kin Klizhin) ruin which the map shows in Section 30. Later it was learned that this ruin was actually in Section 25 of the adjoining Township. The second proclamation added a 40-acre parcel containing Kin-Klizhin, but did not attempt to correct the situation by deleting any of the lands previously included in error.

Kin Klizhin (T.21N., R.12W., Section 25, NW/14NW1/4)

Section 25 was part of a large railroad grant patent in 1908. Proclamation 2937 in 1928 established it as a section of Chaco Canyon National Monument, but title to this parcel was never acquired. This land is now owned by the Navajo Tribe. Early acquisition is strongly recommended.

Kin Klizhin—a 40-acre detached section which should be acquired. Ruin contains tower kiva.

Kin Ya-ah (T.17N., R.12W., Section 28, SE1/4)

This detached section was established by the original proclamation in 1907 and not until 1963 was it learned that the Kin Ya-ah ruin actually lies in the NE1/4 rather than the SE1/4 of Section 28. Most of the SE1/4 is, therefore, available for deletion, preferably to be used directly in exchange for a major portion of the NE1/4 (privately owned) in which the ruin is located.

It is not proposed that the well which exists in the northeast corner of this quarter section be acquired. In order to exclude the well, yet include Kin Ya-ah ruin and some additional ruins which lie to the northwest, it is proposed to add to the monument 130 acres in the NE1/4 of Section 28, described as follows:

NW1/4NE1/4; S1/2NE1/4; and W1/2W1/2NE1/4NE1/4, Section 28, Township 17 North, Range 12 West.

In order to retain a supplementary ruin in the northeast corner of the quarter section which we are proposing to exchange, 30 acres of this quarter will be retained. The 130 acres available for exchange is described as follows:

NW1/4SE1/4; S1/2SE1/4; and S1/2S1/2NE1/4SE1/4, Section 28, Township 17 North, Range 12 West.

Kin Ya-ah—a detached section containing a valuable tower kiva. Recent U.S.G.S. survey revealed that the ruin is not on monument land.

Pueblo Pintado (T.20W, R.8W., Section 12, S1/2; Section 10, SW1/4)

The S1/2 of Section 12 was set aside by the proclamation of 1907 in the erroneous belief that it contained the Pueblo Pintado Ruin. It should be deleted, as it contains no archeological values. The SW1/4 of Section 10 was set aside by the proclamation of 1928. It does contain the Pueblo Pintado Ruin and should be retained.

Pueblo Pintado.—This detached section contains some of the highest standing walls of any ruin.

Casa Morena (T.17N., R.10W, Section 17, SE1/4)

This tract was set aside by the proclamation of 1907. This tract, which is privately owned, does not contain any archeological remains and should be deleted.

Kin Biniola (T.21N., R.12W., Section 32, SE1/4 and SE1/4SW1/4

The SE1/4 was set aside by the proclamation of 1907. Unfortunately it missed the ruin and the SE1/4SW1/4 was set aside by the proclamation of 1928 to correct this error. Further study of this area indicates that the N1/2SE1/4 and the SE1/4SE1/4 (120 acres) are not needed. However, the SW1/4SW1/4 (40 acres) of this section (State) and the N1/2N1/2NW1/4, Section 5, T.20N., R.12W. (40 acres) and NE1/4NE1/4NE14, Section 6, T.20N., R.12W. (10 acres) are needed in order to fully protect archeological values of this important site and should be added to the monument.

In summary, the land situation at Chaco Canyon National Monument is as follows:

Inholdings to be Acquired
Monument Section
  NE1/4, Section 4, T.21N., R.11W.160.05 acres
Kin Klizhin Section
  NW1/4NW1/4, Section 25, T.21N., R.12W.40.00 acres
Total —200.05 acres
Boundary Changes—Additions
Monument Section (Shabik'eshchee Ruin)
  N1/2NE1/4NW1/4, Section 36, T.21N., R.10W.20.00 acres
Kin Biniola Section
  N1/2N1/2NW1/4, Section 5, T.20N., R.12W.40.00 acres
  NE1/4NE1/4NE1/4, Section 6, T.20N., R.12W.10.00 acres
  SW1/4SW1/4, Section 32, T.21N., R.12W.40.00 acres
Kin Ya-ah Section
  NW1/4NE1/4; S1/2NE1/4; and W1/2W1/2NE1/4NE1/4, Section 28, T.17N., R.12W.130.00 acres
Total —240.00 acres
Boundary Changes—Deletions (Federal)
Monument Section
  NW1/4, Section 4, T.21N., R.11W.159.75 acres
  NW1/4, Section 8, T.21N., R.11W.160.00 acres
  Sections 19, 20, and 30, T.21N., R.11W.1,915.24 acres
Casa Morena Section
  SE1/4, Section 17, T.17N., R.10W.Private land
Kin Ya-ah Section
  NW1/4SE1/4; S1/2SE1/4; and S1/2S1/2NE1/4SE1/4, Section 28, T.17N., R.12W.130.00 acres
Pueblo Pintado Section
  S1/2, Section 12, T.20N., R.8W. 320.00 acres320.00 acres
Kin Biniola Section
  N1/2SE1/4, Section 32, T.21N., R.12W.80.00 acres
  SE1/4SE1/4, Section 32, T.21N., R.12W.40.00 acres
Total (Federal) —2,824.99 acres

The 2,824.99 acres of Federal land proposed for deletion would more than cover the 440.05 acres (inholdings 200.05 acres; boundary extensions 240.00 acres) proposed for acquisition at Chaco Canyon. However, other areas of the National Park System on the Navajo Reservation are faced with similar land problems and it is proposed that lands proposed for deletion at Chaco Canyon be exchanged for lands needed at other Service areas. The boundary adjustments and authority for land exchange will require 40.00 acres legislative authorization.

The proposed boundary changes would delete approximately 2,984.99 acres and add approximately 240 acres to result in an area containing approximately 18,764.41 acres instead of the 21,509.40 acres included in the existing monument.

In addition to changing the boundary and acquiring private inholdings, there is a strong need to acquire all outstanding mineral rights. This is especially important because the development of the Bisti and Red Mesa Oil and Gas Fields has sparked a growing interest in the exploration and development of oil, gas, and mineral prospects in this vicinity.

LAND OWNERSHIP & USE. (click on image for a PDF version)


A major obstacle to the orderly development of the outstanding resources at Chaco Canyon is the present location of the principal access road which passes directly through the major ruins area. This road (State Route 56 to the north and Indian Service Route 14 to the south) not only provides visitor access to the area but also serves as a locally important north-south through highway. Visitor traffic, as well as the constantly increasing amount of local and commercial traffic, seriously intrudes on the ruins setting and distracts from the interpretive efforts. The uncontrolled access provided by the road makes it difficult to adequately protect the prehistoric remains from vandalism and uncontrolled visitor use. In addition, the present road alignment effectively prevents the development of a logical and sequentially meaningful interpretive presentation.

The desirability of eliminating this traffic from the ruins area has long been recognized and various means of accomplishing this have been proposed. The simplest and most logical solution involves the elimination of the present access road into the canyon from the north and replacement with a similar road entering the canyon byway of Gallo Wash. Non-park traffic would then continue south across the Chaco Wash and out of the monument on existing Indian Service Route 14. Park traffic, after stopping at the visitor center, would be directed to an interpretive one-way loop road which would take visitors down the canyon, through the major ruin area and return them to the visitor center.

The most suitable alignment for an access road from the north is in connection with Indian Service Route 45E—a graded road, of about the same standard as State Route 56—which leaves State 56 just south of the Escavada Wash and travels east, parallel to the south bank of the wash, approximately 5.7 miles. The easternmost portion of this road is approximately 2.5 miles directly north of the monument boundary in Gallo Wash. An existing graded truck trail in the Gallo Wash extends to within 1.9 miles of this road. The intervening land consists of a broad, low, rolling ridge which would not appear to pose any great problem to road construction. This alignment would also appear to be desirable from the Navajo Tribes' point of view in facilitating access to their Sargent Ranch operation a few miles east of the monument. The possibility of a cooperative approach to the development of this road should be explored with the Navajo Tribal Council, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the New Mexico State Highway Department.

In view of the uncertainties as to future road developments in this general region, it is proposed that facilities for access to the monument from the south be retained essentially as they now exist until such time as some of the uncertainties are resolved.

These facilities consist of a graded road from the monument's south boundary to the vicinity of the visitor center where it connects with the main monument road. Crossings of the Chaco and Gallo Wash are made by means of graded "dips." This arrangement adequately serves present needs throughout most of the year, except for brief periods during and immediately following flash floods when the dips are impassable. At these times traffic would have to be diverted down-canyon to a bridge on the proposed ruins loop road.

Eventually it is hoped that the roads in this region will be developed in such a manner that all visitor traffic will be encouraged to enter the monument by way of the north access road and all north-south through traffic will be encouraged to use alternate routes which would not pass through the monument. In cooperation with the Navajo Tribe, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the State of New Mexico, the development of a regional road system which will achieve these aims should be encouraged.

With elimination of the existing access through the ruins area, a portion of the old road will be obliterated, a portion will be converted to a low standard administrative road and the major portion will be incorporated into the proposed one-way interpretive loop road.

The access road and the interpretive loop road will be the major public use roads and will be developed and maintained as such. However, in the interest of retaining the character of the existing graveled roads, the feasibility of utilizing a dust palliative treatment in lieu of paving for the interpretive loop road should be investigated. All others will be low standard administrative roads maintained only to the degree required in managing the area, including protecting the ruins, carrying out research, ruins stabilization, and soil conservation projects, and maintaining fences. Public use of these roads will be permitted under such controls as will assure protection of archeological values.

All roads and truck trails will continue to be available for use by the neighboring Navajo in gaining access to their ranch lands which now generally surround the monument on the north, east, and south. As other roads are improved in the vicinity, this rather minor use will be reduced even further and, therefore, should not pose any great problem.

Pictograph panel—prehistoric pictures and designs pecked into the canyon walls.


Many of the required physical developments at Chaco Canyon have already been completed. This includes the visitor center (except for minor revisions of the museum exhibits), maintenance area, 4 residences and a large portion of the headquarters parking area. The Gallo Campground now has 60 units in operation. The road along the north side of the canyon, which connects the campground and headquarters area with the main road in the vicinity of Pueblo Bonito, has been based and drained.

The major development projects proposed by this master plan are the revamping of the access and circulation roads and the development of a cooperative archeological research station. Other proposed projects include the development of several additional ruins for interpretation and visitor use; the construction of an interpretive center at Pueblo Bonito; the relocation of trail access to Pueblo Alto; and the improvement of utility systems (development of central sewage systems, enlargement of water system, putting overhead power and telephone lines in the canyon underground; and replacing existing dump with a sanitary land fill).

These two pitchers and mugs show a striking similarity to contemporary pottery forms and designs. (Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History)

Although badly weathered, this carefully made woodenboard still exhibits a multi-colored painted design. (Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History)



While architectural evidence is present in Chaco Canyon for the full gamut of Basketmaker III-Pueblo III group of sites, the few Basketmaker and Developmental Pueblo ruins excavated thus far are poorly located to fit into the present interpretive program. Thus out of some 400 sites, the visitor sees for the most part the large late period sites concentrated in the Pueblo Bonito area and a small early site on the Casa Rinconada Trail. There is little on exhibit to demonstrate the development of this most notable architecture.

Therefore, the major interpretive development will involve the construction of a loop road extending westward from the visitor center through a 4-mile section of the canyon. From the visitor center, the interpretive loop road will cross to the south side of the canyon, utilizing the existing road. From this point it will continue as a one-way road down the canyon, taking visitors to two or three turnout parking areas where they will see early archeological sites with accompanying wayside exhibits. There the visitors will view, in chronological order, Basketmaker III pithouses, then the Pueblo I—Pueblo II version pithouses, followed by a small pueblo of the type that preceded the great structures of the classic period, and Casa Rinconada—an outstanding example of a Great Kiva. The road will recross the canyon to the north side and visitors will climax their trip at Pueblo Bonito, where there will be a major manned interpretive facility covering the story of Pueblo Bonito and other classic period ruins in this vicinity. Guided trips to Pueblo Bonito (and possibly other ruins, as the need arises) will emanate from this facility which will also be the trailhead for self-guided walks to Pueblo del Arroyo, Kin Kletso, and the Alto group, and for registered backcountry hiking to Penasco Blanco and Tsin Kletzin. In addition to specialized interpretive exhibits and devices, this facility should provide shade and rain shelter for at least 100. This concentration may occur from people waiting for tours or for members of their party taking tours. Also required at this facility will be a large parking area, comfort stations, and a small lunch area.

The interpretive loop road will then return to the visitor center along the north side of the canyon with turnout-parking areas and short foot trails at Chettro Kettle, Hungo Pavie, and Una Vida.

The interpretive loop road, with its many, widely separated interpretive developments, should adequately disperse visitor use so that overcrowding will not be a problem for a great many years to come. However, long before this occurs, although still many years in the future, the number of vehicles could increase to the point that they seriously distract from the visitor enjoyment of the ruins setting and interpretive presentation. If and when this occurs, consideration should be given to the elimination of private vehicular traffic on the loop road and the provision of shuttle bus transportation service—an arrangement for which this loop interpretive development is ideally suited. At first this would probably only be required on a part-time basis, later it may be required on a seasonal or year-round basis.

The existing visitor center will be the point of initial visitor contact, fee collection, and orientation. Most of the interpretation will be handled at the individual sites, though the visitor center, with its exhibits, library, study collection, and audiovisual facilities, will be a major interpretive center. Here the general story will be told and fragile material that cannot be exhibited at the ruins will be on display.

Considering the tremendous strides which have been made in archeological research in recent years, existing exhibits and presentations must be considered as temporary and subject to revision. As future research provides additional information, and as more effective means of interpretation are developed, the interpretive presentation should be changed and revised. This will undoubtedly include the development of additional interpretive sites as well as the imaginative use of new methods and techniques of interpretation. In this regard, and in the interest of encouraging research aimed at developing improved methods and techniques of interpretation, the possibility of contracting with the University for interpretive services should be explored.

Interpretive foot trails to other points of interest, such as pictograph sites, prehistoric trails, and ruin overlook points should be developed to more evenly distribute the visitors and enhance their experiences.

As roads are developed, making the detached sections of the monument more easily accessible, and as visitor use increases, suitable interpretive facilities and services will have to be provided. However, these developments should be kept to a minimum and visitors should be encouraged to utilize the major interpretive facilities and services in the canyon section of the monument.

Conducted trip at Pueblo Bonito passing several of the many kivas which served this 800-room village.


Visitation is seriously restricted by the lack of overnight accommodations and eating facilities in the vicinity. Although the provision of these facilities and services within the monument is neither feasible because of space limitation nor desirable, their close proximity would be of great benefit to monument visitors and should be encouraged.

In the past, the Navajo Tribe has indicated interest in developing such facilities either directly or through their trading post leasing operations. In either case the Navajo Tribe would benefit. This would be highly desirable and the Service should work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Tribe in encouraging the development of suitable facilities.

Only modest facilities are required at present; with improved access, considerable expansion will undoubtedly be required. Ultimately, such facilities could consist of a motel, restaurant, curio and crafts shop, campground, camper store, trailer park, passenger vehicle rental services and a landing strip for light planes.

The Navajo Tribe recently acquired the trading post just north of the monument near the Escavada Wash. Although it is now closed, it is assumed that the Tribe will re-open it when it appears economically feasible to do so. On a seasonal basis, this time may already have arrived.


The existing 60-unit campground is in a rather marginal location and suitable space for campground development in the monument is extremely limited. In view of the fact that camping at Chaco Canyon is only incidental to the primary purpose of seeing and enjoying the archeological features, it is proposed that the Navajo Tribe be encouraged to develop camping facilities on their lands and that camping in the monument be eliminated. The development of a modest campground in conjunction with a trading post operation and other visitor accommodations should prove to be beneficial to the Tribe in providing employment and income to individual Navajos.

Ruins stabilization unit at work capping walls of Pueblo Pintado to prevent further deteriorization.

The Great Kiva in the plaza of Chettro Kettle has been stablized and remains uncovered for visitors to see.


Ruins Preservation

One of the primary purposes of the monument is to preserve the prehistoric remains. As a result, this is also one of the principal concerns of management and involves several separate but interrelated resource management programs.

Protection from Vandalism—The problem of vandalism, souvenir collecting, and "pot hunting" is common to all archeological areas. However, it is more serious at Chaco Canyon than at most because of the great number of ruins in widely scattered locations, most of which are rather easily accessible.

With the limited manpower, protection is now provided by: stationing personnel in the main ruins area during periods of heavy travel; periodic ranger patrols in other areas; fencing; signing and other restrictions on access to certain ruins; publicizing pertinent rules and regulations; and conservation-education projects. With increased visitation and improved accessibility, protection activities will need to be greatly expanded.

The proposed relocation of the principal access route will improve visitor control and simplify protection problems in the canyon itself by permitting the closing of the main ruins area at night.

Occasional visitors are interested in seeing and photographing some of the undeveloped ruins in the back-country. In order to provide for this use and, at the same time, provide for ruins protection and visitor safety, a suitable method of registering backcountry use will be required.

Protection from Visitor Use—Unintentional, but nevertheless, serious damage to the prehistoric remains is caused by visitors simply walking on and through the ruins to see and enjoy them. Protection from this type of damage is achieved by confining visitors to certain ruins and to specific and carefully selected sections of them. Protection is also provided by: installing guard rails and barriers where necessary; developing free-standing walkways and ladders; and building trails and walks on top of protective fill. In some cases it is necessary to close certain sections of the ruin to visitors simply because there is no practical and dependable means of insuring that the irreplaceable features will not be damaged or destroyed. These problems will be intensified with increased visitation and the problem of enabling more people to adequately see and enjoy the ruins without destroying them will require careful study, thought, and imagination.

Protection from Weathering—Much ruins stabilization work has been accomplished at Chaco Canyon but, because of the number of large ruins, there is still much more to be done. This highly specialized and technically complex work involves the reinforcement and capping of walls, the waterproofing and sealing of plastered walls, the development of surface and subsoil drainage systems, and the preparation of protective shelters. Much of the ruins stabilization work is preparing selected features and sections of the ruin for visitor use.

Ruins stabilization is a continuing program and the work has to be routinely inspected, patched-up, and redone from time to time. It is made more difficult by the fact that there is just as much of an obligation to stabilize and preserve the isolated and little used sites as there is for the readily accessible and heavily used ones.

The present ruins stabilization program needs to be expanded to include those ruins in the more remote sections of the monument and to more adequately cover the increased stabilization needs incurred by increased visitation. Considerable improvements in materials and methods of ruins stabilization have been made in the past and additional research in this matter will be required in the future. As a means of encouraging research and training in this field, the possibility of contracting ruins stabilization work with the University should be explored.

Protection from Erosion—Completion of the transcontinental railway 50 miles south in the early 1880's produced tremendous expansion in this region's cattle grazing industry. The resulting cycle of unlimited free grazing on the public domain reached its highest peak about 1900. Since the Chaco Wash provided the only permanent flowing stream for stock watering purposes within a 50-mile range, the vegetative cover in this vicinity suffered greatly and serious soil erosion resulted.

Wijiji—a classic Bonito Phase village in eastern portion of Chaco Canyon.

As a result of this erosion, many of the smaller prehistoric structures have been obliterated and several of the major ruins are in danger of being undermined and destroyed.

The Service is well aware of the problem and for years has been intensively involved in soil and moisture conservation work, including fencing the area, eliminating grazing, and reseeding in order to restore the vegetative cover. The major work is channelizing the main stream to allow flood waters to pass through the monument with the least possible damage. The latter work has involved building revetments, dikes, basket dams, checks, spillways, and drop-structures. It has also involved the planting of more than 100,000 cottonwoods and willows, and several tons of grass seed. This is a continuing program requiring constant inspection, revision, and reconstruction. The program is seriously hampered because the real problem is in stopping the erosion and runoff in the upper drainages which lie outside the monument and under the control of other agencies and private landowners. Every effort should be made to solve this problem by encouraging development of a broad cooperative conservation program covering lands upstream from Chaco Canyon. Only then can the present program of checking arroyo-cutting and channeling the main washes be changed to one concerned with soil stabilization and restoration of the vegetative cover.

Restoration of Natural Setting—In managing area resources, the primary objective should be to maintain the area, as much as possible, in the condition which existed when first seen by the early explorers. Besides visitor facilities, other signs of man's activities such as power and telephone lines, water tanks, and other maintenance and administrative facilities should be hidden. The existing garbage disposal operation should be replaced by a sanitary landfill as indicated on the General Development drawing.

TOP: While no direct connection can be proven, this vessel resembles modern Southwestern Indian pottery styles. BOTTOM: Standing five inches high, this handled jar could easily pass as a contemporary coffee cup. (Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History)


Scientific research was one of the primary purposes for which Chaco Canyon National Monument was established. The Antiquities Act of 1906, which provided the basic authority for establishing the monument, was primarily aimed at protecting objects and features of scientific importance from private exploitation so that through orderly scientific study the public would benefit from increased knowledge of the features being preserved and the people who lived on the continent long before the coming of the first Europeans. In this connection, a continuing program of scientific research at Chaco Canyon by the University of New Mexico, Museum of New Mexico and/or the School of American Research was specifically authorized by a provision in the Act of February 17, 1931.

The nature of the area is such that archeological research in support of the interpretive program will undoubtedly always represent the greatest bulk of the needs. However, of equal or even greater importance is research aimed at resource management, particularly as it relates to ruins stabilization and other measures aimed at preserving the prehistoric remains from damage by weathering, erosion and visitor use.

Una Vida—a large ruin east of Chettro Kettle near the visitor center. Excavation, stabilization and visitor use is proposed in future development plans.

Research in the Field of Interpretation

The archeological studies which have been made at Chaco Canyon have produced only a relatively small amount of information. This is largely because most of these studies were made at a time when the science of archeology was just developing and the full potential of a site for providing information was never realized. In addition, many of these earlier studies were never completed and written reports are either fragmentary or nonexistent. As a result, there are a great many questions for which the visitor as well as the archeologist would like answers.

—Who were these people and what attracted them to this area?

—What was this desert country like when they arrived and to what extent did their being here alter it?

—What were the social-religious activities and their significance?

—Where did they bury their dead? (This is not just morbid curiosity; to the archeologist, skeletons are a primary source of information—size, build, average age, disease, epidemics, dietary problems, etc.)

—What was the relationship between the three cultural groups which lived there side-by-side during the later periods of occupation?

—How and where did they farm?

—What was the nature and extent of their intricate water control devices and structures?

—Why did they leave?

—Where did they go?

The answers to these and other questions will require a great deal of research involving many fields of knowledge.

Another matter of concern is that the collections derived from the early studies were generally retained by the excavators. Thus there is only a limited amount of archeological material available at Chaco Canyon for study and public display. A strong research program would not only provide needed interpretive information but would also supply highly desirable study and exhibit material.

Kin Biniola—detached section. An impressive major ruin with interesting irrigation works and outstanding potential for interpretive use.

Research in the Field of Resource Management

The prehistoric remains represent the primary resource at Chaco Canyon and the resource management programs are all either directly or indirectly aimed at preserving these resources.

Through experimentation and on-the-job experience, the National Park Service has developed methods and procedures for ruins stabilization which have made the Service the recognized authority in this field. However, the ruins stabilization program, in addition to being one of the more important in the Service, is also one of the most complex. Methods and procedures which work at Chaco Canyon may be completely wrong at Casa Grande. Even in the same area, two adjoining walls or different parts of a single wall may pose completely different problems requiring different measures and methods of treatment. Detailed knowledge and special skills in a great many fields of interest are required. Because of this complexity, those involved in the ruins stabilization program have long pointed out the great need for a comprehensive and continuing program of research and experimentation.

A related resource management concern is that soil erosion, flooding, and channel cutting have undermined and destroyed some archeological sites and threaten others. Studies aimed at preventing further damage and developing more effective means of eliminating the basic causes are also critically needed.

Proposed Archeological Research Program

The research needs are so great that they can best be met by a well-equipped and staffed research or educational institution working with the National Park Service. The University of New Mexico, School of American Research, and Museum of New Mexico are appropriate institutions. They all have had experience in making research studies at Chaco Canyon and, in addition, already have certain legal rights for conducting research in the monument. In addition, the University, by a Memorandum of Agreement between the Secretary of the Interior and the Regents, also has specific authority to operate a research facility at Chaco Canyon. Although none of these institutions have been active at Chaco Canyon in recent years and their former facilities in the monument no longer exist, there is reason to believe that they are still interested in carrying out research studies at Chaco Canyon.

These circumstances suggest the need for a cooperative approach to research by the National Park Service and these other institutions. A comprehensive research program, developed cooperatively so as to be mutually beneficial, appears to be the most feasible means of satisfying the monument's research needs. Under the circumstances, it is recommended that appropriate steps be taken to develop such a program. In doing so, the following items should receive special consideration:

1. In cooperation with the University of New Mexico, School of American Research, and Museum of New Mexico, develop a comprehensive research program which will identify research needs, establish priorities, clarify responsibilities and give direction to the program.

2. In cooperation with the various institutions involved, make necessary arrangements for establishing an archeological research station at Chaco Canyon. Such a research station, operated jointly by the National Park Service and the cooperating institutions, would greatly encourage and facilitate research studies.

The availability of such facilities in the field (field laboratory and housing) is considered essential to the success of the research program. Equally essential is the availability of research space and facilities in the cooperating institution. Thus the establishment of a research center at the institution that participates in the management of the field research station is proposed.

Such facilities would not only be essential in the detailed study of the collected material and the preparation of reports on the archeological studies underway at the time, but would also greatly facilitate the restudy of materials from earlier archeological studies which were never completed.

Although existing facilities for carrying out research activities in the monument are limited (darkroom, small laboratory, and large storage room in the visitor center and space for temporary or portable housing in the campground), a modest research station could be developed with a minimum cost because utilities are already available. If it develops that a facility of larger size and scope is required, a site about 3/4-mile west of the visitor center and on the opposite side of the canyon is considered suitable. This site is readily accessible, but removed from the visitor use area.

3. Research aimed at developing improved methods and techniques in the fields of ruins stabilization and archeological interpretation is critically needed. In addition, there is an important need for a training program in these fields. As one means of encouraging these activities the possibility of contracting with the University for ruins stabilization work and interpretive services should be explored.

The prehistoric remains located outside the major ruins area of the monument and in the detached sections should be considered as archeological research reserves. They should neither be publicized nor developed for public use until: (1) public use of these sites increases and substantial personal services are required for site protection, at which time interpretive services should also be provided; (2) visitor use of existing developments increases to the point where overcrowding occurs and additional developments are needed to spread visitor use; or (3) archeological research identifies features of such outstanding significance to the interpretive story that development for public benefit is desirable.


Prepare and implement the following action plans and programs:

Research Plan—designed to support the interpretive and resource management programs.

Interpretive Prospectus

Resource Management Plan

Land Acquisition Priorities Plan

Maintenance and Protection Plan

Seek legislation to secure boundary changes, acquire land and, if necessary, authorize new approach road.

Develop proposed interpretive loop road including interpretive facilities and developments.

Cooperate with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies and private landowners in developing a broad Soil and Moisture Conservation Program covering upper Chaco drainage outside the monument.

New Pueblo Alto—smaller of two large ruins on the mesa above Pueblo Bonito. Existing primitive trail serving this ruin also provides outstanding view overlooking Pueblo Bonito. Extensive water storage and diversion works are located nearby.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 16-Apr-2010