Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wijiji Trail in Chaco Canyon

The Wijiji Trail is a 3.0 mile round trip to a Great House ruins structure in Chaco Canyon National Monument in northwest New Mexico, inside the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.

The trail head for the Wijiji Trail is about 1.25 miles east of the Visitor Center. It is passed as you are entering the park before reaching the Visitor Center and is probably overlooked with all of the other attractions in Chaco Canyon that lie beyond the Visitor Center . The trail is a flat dirt road that is also an easy bike trail.
The trail passes along the steep canyon wall on the north side of Chaco Canyon. In addition to the Ancestral Pueblo structures from the period of 850 to 1150 AD, this area has many signs of use by Navajos who moved into the area about 500 years ago.

The Cliff House sandstone layer here is the same layer that supports the cliff dweller sites of Mesa Verde and has many similar alcove formations. The terrain here is much dryer than Mesa Verde, with sage brush, grease wood and grasses and virtually no trees growing.

The Wijiji site is the most symmetrical of the structures in Chaco Canyon. There are 225 uniformly sized rooms arranged in compact formation around two circular kivas, This site is a little different than some of the other Great Houses as there is not a Great Kiva in the central plaza.

The interpretive information indicates that this site didn’t use a rock foundation and as the sand and clay that was used settled, structural problems with the walls developed. The Chaco builders also often didn’t tie corner together well and the separation that occurred led to collapse.

Besides the missing Great Kiva, Wijiji also lacks a midden, or waste pile, and doesn’t have an arc of rooms enclosing the plaza. It appears to have been built in one burst of activity between 1110 and 1115, and some think that it may be incomplete.

About 600 feet further past the Great House site there is a pictograph panel that features several handprints and some animal figures. The Chaco Canyon area is very rich is rock art and it is always fun to find these. It took me about 1:30 hours to walk this trail on a 55 F degree blue sky day in early April.

528614_Cool Camo Russell Outdoors

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