chaco culture: pueblo arroyo & the casa rinconada community

Pueblo Arroyo, Spanish for “village by the wash,” was built over a short time by Chacoans.  The round tri-wall structure on the west side of the building is rare in the Chaco Region. The building’s position gave an unobstructed view through South Gap, between West and South Mesas.


Pueblo Arroyo


Pueblo Arroyo


Pueblo Arroyo


Pueblo Arroyo

The trail through Casa Rinconada and nearby villages is about a half mile long.

All over the Southwest, I found these pink-tipped grasses, but I’m not sure what they are.


pink tipped grasses

Distinctive masonry was developed at Chaco Canyon that added to the structure and stability of the large buildings. The trail through the Casa Rinconada Community showcases some of the diversity of architecture that existed within Chacoan culture.

On the canyon’s south side, Casa Rinconada is the largest excavated kiva in the park.  The trail to this great house passes a dozen “small house sites” contemporary with Casa Rinconada but different in construction and function.

The great kiva named Casa Rinconada was a massive ceremonial and community building.  Kivas are buildings used in Puebloan cultures for religious worship, similar to churches, mosques, and synagogues. Casa Rinconada is the largest excavated great kiva in Chaco Canyon and one of the largest in the entire Chacoan world.  The alignment of the kiva’s architectural features are set on a north-south axis.

The Casa Rinconada great kiva was built atop a natural hillside, within the community of small villages. Across the canyon, Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo del Arroyo, and Pueblo Alto formed the core area of Chaco.

Casa Rinconda has an entryway through a north antechamber through which people entered.


Great Kiva at Casa Rinconada

Great kivas may have been partially or completely roofed. Circular masonry-lined pits housed four massive upright timbers that supported the roof.  Its actual configuration remains a mystery.

Great kivas commonly contained masonry benches, but it isn’t certain if they functioned as seating areas.  In Casa Rinconada, there are 34 wall niches set into the interior.  One of the niches seems to be a solstice, or astronomical, marker. At sunrise on summer solstice, sunlight passes through an opening in the eastern portion of the wall and shines on the interior western wall.  It is not certain if this was intentional as researchers believe the kiva once had rooms surrounding the outer wall which would have blocked the sunlight.


Great Kiva at Casa Rinconada

Building sites at Chaco were chosen to allow great houses to communicate with one another by signal fires.  Great houses were connected to other public buildings by roads and earthen architecture.  Roads also connected the Chacoan world with mesas, lakes, and mountains within the sacred landscape.


The Casa Rinconada Community in Chaco Canyon

Of course, I collected my sticker and cancellation stamp for Chaco Culture National Historic Park.


Chaco Culture National Historical Park

I left Chaco Canyon at 4:00, taking the northern dirt road toward 550 N en route to Farmington, New Mexico.  For the first four miles, the road was very bumpy.  People were speeding and kicking up so much dust, I had to keep a good distance behind them.  Then, I drove over a 19-mile gravel road; this was worse than the southern approach as the car tires kept skidding out on the gravel whenever I took a corner too fast.  This exit out was much more heavily traveled than the southern route I took into the park.

I was relieved to finally reach the paved road.  I passed the defunct Blanco Trading Post and buttes scattered here and there on the horizon.  When I arrived in Farmington, New Mexico, I thought it looked as derelict as it did 39 years back, when my first husband and I dropped in to visit my Uncle Gibby, my mother’s brother.  He’s no longer living, so I checked into the Brentwood Inn and Suites, which seemed to be run by Native Americans.  There were some shady-looking characters about, but the room seemed fine.  At The Chile Pod, I enjoyed red wine and a Navajo taco: a sopapilla covered in beans, cheese, chilies, lettuce and tomato.

Information above came from various brochures created by the National Park Service.

*Thursday, May 17, 2018*

16,489 steps, or 6.99 miles.


On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: A Romp in El Rompido.