On June 18, 1823, while leading an expedition to the heart of Hopi lands, Mexican soldier José Antonio Vizcarra (soon to be the third Mexican governor of New Mexico) dipped into a canyon and came across the remains of the largest series of structures built by man in North America. What Vizcarra found in that canyon was more than impressive — it was a rare design that, to this day, stands the test of time. Constructed of sandstone and timber, Chaco Canyon was the cultural center for the Ancient Pueblo people between 900 – 1150 AD. Now managed by the National Park Service, Chaco Canyon is a testament to human ingenuity and the merging of spiritual life, community and commerce.
In 1987 Chaco Canyon was designated as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. This is a reflection of its extraordinary cultural and physical significance. The purpose of UNESCO designations is to preserve and protect World Heritage Sites for the benefit of humanity. The program's recognition of Chaco Canyon pays respect to the ancient and the Native cultures.
The designation is not granted lightly; there are only 802 designated UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites in the world. Of those, nine UNESCO designated sites are in the United States and three are in the Southwest. The Southwest designations include Chaco Canyon, Taos Pueblo and Mesa Verde. All three are within a day's drive from our hotel near Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.