Getting to, and Exploring, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico via Computer Game

What Is Chaco Canyon

None of the modern amenities exist in Chaco Canyon. The closest lodging is an hour and a half drive on mostly dirt roads, when in good condition. To come in from the east, the traveler is faced with an equally daunting trek; portions of the unpaved roads are easily washed out by summer thunderstorms, leaving bone jarring ruts. Once you make it to the park you are greeted with only a limited, basic campground, offering zero shade in summer and no respite from the deviously cold winds that roll in later in the year. And if you’re lucky enough to be at Chaco in the spring, prepare to be blasted by pervasive and abrasive sand in impressive quantities, traveling at equally impressive velocity.

A secondary factor I’ve noticed first hand is that the ruins of Mesa Verde simply “make sense”. The defensive nature of the architecture is easy to understand and it takes little imagination to visualize people at work and play, secure and protected from incursion. The restored ruins are clearly identifiable as housing, storage granaries, and watch towers. The access points are difficult to move through and around, obviously a measure designed for defense. Green, well-watered agricultural areas abound upon the mesa. Rangers talk, tourists gawk and nod.
 
Chaco, on the other hand leaves most people impressed, but very confused. Furling of the brow. Quizzical expressions. Almost nothing makes sense. Rough, barren terrain. No obvious water sources. No natural resources. Massive buildings with scant evidence of habitation. Only a small portion of the ruins restored, much left to the imagination.

When you compare Mesa Verde’s museum-quality, manicured, ranger-guided, air conditioned, tour bus style visitation with Chaco Canyon’s desolate “you’re on your own” experience, one can see why Mesa Verde receives eleven times more visitors annually than Chaco.