On April 1, 2010 the park began rehabilitating the Visitor Center and opened a temporary visitor center in a 30' diameter yurt located on the north edge of the parking lot. The yurt houses the interpretive ranger orientation operation with maps, brochures, and the WNPA bookstore. The museum exhibits and park film are not currently available.
Rebuilding the Visitor Center
The Visitor Center was evaluated to determine its historical value and whether it was eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Because it had suffered numerous additions, renovations, and repairs, the State Historic Preservation Officer concurred that the building was not eligible, and the planned rehabilitation could go forward. The original plans were for the rehabilitation to take about 6 months, but shortly after the work began, the condition of the old building was found to be so poor that it could not be saved. Now we're rebuilding instead.
Built in 1957 as a prototype for the National Park Service 'Mission 66' program, the old Visitor Center suffered from inadequate site preparation and inferior building materials. This stands in stark contrast to the magnificent Chaco buildings that have survived for over 1,000 years with many of the elements intact and structurally sound. In spring of 2011 the construction crew laid foundation for our new Visitor Center. We are rebuilding in the same place with substantially the same footprint and a foundation engineered to last this time. The construction crew is very thorough; they even hired a local Navajo medicine man to bless the site.
On June 22, 2011 the lead contractor for the Visitor Center project made the radio announcement "We're goin' vertical!" and the first steel framing for walls went up on our new building. One has to wonder if the ancient Chacoans didn't utter an equivalent phrase as they achieved three and four story structures for the first time.