View Full Version : Chaco Canyon

Bruce Schultz
1-Feb-2006, 08:20
I'm about to hit the road for Chaco Canyon. I've been wanting to go there for years and now is the time, even though it's the dead of winter. Any last minute tips/advisories/caveats, photographic or otherwise, before I load up the camper? I'm traveling from Louisiana through Texas and entering New Mexico near Roswell.

1-Feb-2006, 08:24
Just remember that the road can be a bit iffy in bad weather. You also need to remember that in the park you are Federal land, out side the park on all sides you are on Navajo Tribal Lands and subject to their rules and regulations regarding photography.

If you would like I can point you to an article that outlines these rules and proceedures.

David Luttmann
1-Feb-2006, 09:00

I'd like to see those rules. I'm considering coming on down and all the extra info would be welcome.

Rich Voninski
1-Feb-2006, 09:11
Please post a link to the article.


Kirk Gittings
1-Feb-2006, 09:23
We are having the driest winter in 40 years. The roads will be dry and passable but may be rough if they have not been graded in awhile. We are having mild temperatures too, 60's in the daytime and some nice clouds.

Jim Rhoades
1-Feb-2006, 09:44
I'll be going to New Mexico in May. So yes, please post or link any information, hints or secret places. Honest I won't tell anyone.

Kirk Gittings
1-Feb-2006, 09:53

Unfortunately much of the access that we had in the 80's when I did my book CHACO BODY has been closed off or restricted and though the rangers are few they are also tough. But it is still a wonderful place to photograph.

Ralph Barker
1-Feb-2006, 10:09
Regarding current weather in NM, Kirk forgot to mention that it is often breezy to windy due to the track of the jet stream that is keeping us dry. A breeze of 5-15mph is fairly typical, but some areas and times of day are higher. So, consider bringing an anchor for your tripod. ;-)

1-Feb-2006, 10:22
Here is the link. It is to an article I wrote for APUG's article section. I am not sure if non-subscribers can see it. If you cannot see it I would be happy to post it here on this site if Tuan Agrees or E-mail it to anyone who wants it. The information in the article is still current as there has been no changes to the Navajo Nation policies regarding photography. I do not mention Chaco in the article because it is governed by the federal GVT. the tribal regulations regarding photography apply outside the boundries of the monument.


I don't know how to make a hotlink so you will have to copy and paste the address

Brian Vuillemenot
1-Feb-2006, 10:32

Make sure you take the entrance from the east, off of highway 550/44 near Nageezi, NM (there are signs). With that entrance, you drive 5 miles on paved and then 15 on graded dirt to get in. The last time I went there (May 2004) the road was not bad at all, but it can be much worse. DO NOT take the roads from the south, off of interstat 40- they are much longer and considerably rougher! Be sure to do the hike up to Pueblo Alto, that overlooks Chaco Canyon and the ruin of Pueblo Bonito- one of the most impressive sights in the southwest!

Kirk Gittings
1-Feb-2006, 11:45
I am not fond from a photographic point of view about the overlook of Pueblo Bonito-too much modern crap. But the to Pueblo Alto.......(third image down):

www.gittingsphoto.com/fmsetgallery.html?gallery=CHACO%20BODY%3a%20The%20Book (http://www.gittingsphoto.com/fmsetgallery.html?gallery=CHACO%20BODY%3a%20The%20Book)

Bruce Schultz
1-Feb-2006, 12:04
It almost looks like it could be overwhelming to start photographing this place. I wonder if I shouldn't make a cursory tour of the sites, then return with the camera.

Kirk Gittings
1-Feb-2006, 12:17

There is a point to that, because there is allot of geography to cover. But here are some suggestions.
These are my suggestions for the light on a first trip:


Petroglyphs by Una Vida, Chetro Kettle

Mid Day:

Pueblo del Arroyo, Casa Rinconada,

Late Afternoon:

Bonito (ground level), or up to Alto, and then Fajada Butte from somewhere along the west road going south.

Kirk Gittings
1-Feb-2006, 12:23
Will you be shooting color or b&w. Filter choice is critical for B&W.

Lincoln Michaud
1-Feb-2006, 12:24

Since you will be coming thru' Roswell, I would suggest , at least, a stop at the White Sands National Monument. It is on your way and always seems to have something to offer -photographically. If this were a possiblitly for you- I would be glad to show you around. Be mindful, however, that it is starting to get into your spring windy season. Mostly, it is not a problem-but sometimes it is

Let me know- I am about 1 hr drive from the monument.

Lincoln linc@zianet.com Las cruces, NM

Bruce Schultz
1-Feb-2006, 12:42
Thanks for the suggestions. I remember it took several trips to Big Bend before I got acclimated to the fantastic scenery and the huge expansive landscape.
I'll be shooting 8x10 B&W (HP5), either with red filter, polarizer or a UV. I probably need an orange or green but I'll make do.

Kirk Gittings
1-Feb-2006, 12:48
I don't recommend a red filter. The yellow sandstone gets washed out. When the sun is sharp angle to the ruins or cliffs you can get away with light orange, otherwise I use a green filter. It preserves the texture in the stone and darkens the sky some.

William Blunt
1-Feb-2006, 15:10
Make sure your film holders are taped so the slides can't "bounce out" while making the drive into the park. The road will bounce you around if you try to keep to the speed limit posted. You will notice the locals don't use the posted speed limit and for good reason. If you travel a bit faster the washboards seem to smooth out a bit, but be careful on curves!

Scott Knowles
1-Feb-2006, 17:38
You should have a good time finding lots of places to photograph. There was a NG documentary on it a few years ago that describes it very well and provides an excellent explanation on why it was. Give yourself time to explore the ruins, the area around it, and the cliffs above - outstanding long distance views. Also, being February, the facilities will be closed except the rangers-visitors center, so bring everything you need to live it's a long way to the store. It will be cold at night, I was there one December years ago (one of only two groups for the week). If you have an RV, please exercise courtesy with others when using any generators - the sound is loud in the campgrounds and not appreciated by the tent dwellers at night.

Good luck and enjoy.

Ben Calwell
2-Feb-2006, 09:52
If you're near Roswell, you could try and photograph where the flying saucer supposedly crashed in 1947.

Kirk Gittings
2-Feb-2006, 10:02
"f you're near Roswell, you could try and photograph where the flying saucer supposedly crashed in 1947."

Been there, it is very boring visually.

16-Feb-2006, 09:16
Kirk G. : AWESOME photos of Chaco Canyon on your website. Captures what the Natives saw each day. I am an (older) student returning to college and have done an extensive research paper on Chaco Canyon. Your photos are awesome. I hope that area remains untouched. I would love to visit Chaco someday when my studies are done.
Thanks for sharing those.
Barb T, Minnesota

Kirk Gittings
16-Feb-2006, 11:51
Thanks you for the kind words. The Chaco images and book were a labor of love.

My friend Allen Rumme and I are planning a fall LF shooting trip to Chaco, maybe the middle of October. Why not join us. Anybody else? This is not a workshop. I need more vacations, not more work, but if anyone wants to join us they are welcome.