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On Location: Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Chaco Canyon is the best-preserved site of early settlement in the United States. Located in New Mexico, miles from paved roads and service stations, the most exiting historic park does not receive the same amount of visitors as other parks. Unlike other spectacular locations like Canyon de Chelly or Mesa Verde, you can freely explore Chaco and even enter most of the sites. This makes Chaco Canyon much more desirable for photography.
Eventually the park service will develop the road to Chaco and limit access to the ruins as more and more tourists will start visiting the park. Currently you can still have many places of the park to yourself. You do not have to wait a long time for a clear undisturbed view of the ruins, thanks to the relatively small amount of visitors compared to other places.
The buildings are still in a good state. Many of the ancient walls tower several stories high, showing the impressive skills of the pueblo Indians that lived here many years ago. Chaco was a major cultural and commercial center, a capital city of the ancient civilization. It was located in the heart of the Anasazi Empire, connecting many other nearby sights.
Chaco reminded me even of the Andean wonder-city of Machu Picchu (Peru), probably the most famous of all historic places.
Coming to Chaco has been a long dream of mine that I fulfilled in 2008, after having to bypass the park due to very bad weather in 2007. Access in winter can be difficult, since the roads are not cleared. Even less people visit in winter and the angle of the sun is lower, making winter my favorite time to visit the National Parks of the west.
Chaco Culture National Historic Park is an unforgettable experience. I would love to come back before too much changes.