Limited to 26 people
Study Leader: Steve Lekson — Curator of archaeology, professor of anthropology, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. Dr. Lekson has researched and written extensively on the Southwest and has directed archaeological excavations throughout New Mexico and Colorado.
This is not the first SAR field trip to Chaco Canyon, but with Dr. Lekson on board, it’s guaranteed to be thought provoking and stimulating while taking you into places that are not typically visited. Without question, Chaco Canyon is the most important and mysterious prehistoric site in the American Southwest. Join us for a three-day trip into Chaco Canyon and some of its northern outliers in New Mexico and southern Colorado including Pierre’s Site, Kutz Canyon, Aztec Monument, and Chimney Rock National Monument. Dr. Lekson will share information and ideas on the Chaco World and its influence and success in contrast to sites such as Aztec, which followed Chaco but did not flourish.
Day one will include our travel time to Chaco Cultural National Historical Park which is a lengthy and beautiful drive. We’ll picnic at Chaco and then venture out to several archaeological sites in the canyon. The site of a great ancestral pueblo center in the eleventh and twelfth centuries AD, the ruins in Chaco Canyon look like a city to some archaeologists, a ceremonial center to others. Chaco and the people who created its monumental great houses, extensive roads, and network of outlying settlements remain an enigma in American archaeology.
After spending the night in Farmington, we’ll head out early to explore a couple of sites on the Great North Road, a significant feature of the Chacoan world, which is aligned with the Chaco Meridian and is part of a theory developed by Dr. Lekson. The Great North Road has its origin in several routes that ascend by staircases carved into the cliff from Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl in Chaco Canyon, the two largest structures of the region. The routes converge at Pueblo Alto, a large structure located close to the north rim of the canyon, and then continue almost due north for another fifty kilometers.
We’ll drive and then walk into Pierre’s Site, the largest archaeological complex on the Great North Road. This site features room blocks, kivas, lookouts, and signaling locations perched atop small mesas. Occupied during the heyday of Chaco culture, this site is part of the larger cultural landscape of pueblos, shrines, solar and lunar observatories, and roads that stretched across the San Juan Basin and beyond a thousand years ago.
We’ll journey on to visit Kutz Canyon, which is where the Great North Road descends from the Kutz Canyon escarpment to the canyon floor and then continues on to Salmon Ruins and Aztec Ruins.
We’ll also make a stop at Aztec Ruins National Monument, another site on the Chaco Meridian, and on our route to Durango, Colorado, our terminus for the evening and overnight.
Day three is another full day of learning and exploration as we visit Chimney Rock National Monument, the most remote and highest Chacoan site (7,000 feet elevation).
Chimney Rock is a stunning sedimentary bluff on the southern edge of the San Juan mountains near Pagosa Springs, Colorado. One of the most northern Chaco outliers, it provides an unusual perspective on Chacoan prehistory. Dr. Kim Malville of University of Colorado, Boulder, demonstrated that Chimney Rock likely served as an occasional host of pilgrimage festivals during the times of the Northern Major Lunar Standstill Event, which takes place every 18.6 years, as well as playing other significant roles in the Chaco World. Dr. Lekson will guide us on an exploration of this site, including first hand findings from recent excavations and research.
We’ll complete our loop via Pagosa Springs, with a stop for lunch by the San Juan River, before the scenic drive back to Santa Fe with views of Southern Colorado’s high peaks and on through the stunning scenery of the Ghost Ranch area and the Chama River Valley.
To register for this trip, click here.
Activity Level: Moderate**
** Pierre’s Site involves hiking ¾-mile without trails, down an arroyo bottom with 100’ elevation loss/gain, and an optional scramble/climb up a 100-foot mesa
**Chimney Rock requires a 1/4-mile (one way) hike on a rugged trail with 100′ elevation gain. Not for people with fear of heights: narrow ridge trail with 1000′ drop on either side
**Access into Chaco Canyon and Pierre’s Site requires us to transfer to a school bus for the trip into the park.
Includes: Transportation, bottled water and snacks on board, guide, all entrance fees, two breakfasts, three lunches, one dinner, hotel accommodations, and all gratuities, based on a guaranteed minimum of 20 guests. Dinner in Durango will be on your own.