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How Accessible is accessible: chaco culture national historical park


Photography by Randy Martinez ©2021


Traveling is not only fun, it can open your mind, educate you and show you places you’ve never read about in any school books.


During a recent trip to New Mexico, my partner Randy Martinez and I decided to visit Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and the journey was quite an adventure.

A long dirt road bumps your vehicle around on rough, remote, terrain for over 20 miles. Life as you know it changes right before your eyes. Time moves slowly as you venture away from civilization into the unknown.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Drive through the desert and spend some quality time with mother nature. No gas stations, no fast food restaurants, and no hotels anywhere in site. Lose the internet and gain awareness to your connection with everything else around you.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Gangs of sheep take over the road, wild horses trot alongside your car, and a curtain of clouds is raised from behind the mountains.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Stay on the road and enjoy the ride. Leave behind any thoughts of where you once were, or where you’re headed. Be in the moment.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Upon arrival, you are welcomed by a Chaco Culture National Historical Park sign. Pull over on the side of the road, soak up your surroundings and take a photo.

Photography by Randy Martinez ©2021


Head to the visitor center, grab a brochure, and talk to a ranger about your disability. The staff are very friendly and happy to recommend the best trails for you. Support the park by shopping in the store. Buy a hat to protect you from the sun, a book to learn more about what you could see in the park, or a gift to remember the journey.

Photography by Randy Martinez ©2021


Sometimes you have to stop and have a picnic. Have a seat at a table outside the visitor center. The altitude of 6200 ft can have an affect on you so while you get acclimated, unpack the cooler, eat a snack, and drink lots of water. After lunch, put on a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses then go explore the park.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


The Chaco Canyon Monument became a National Historical Park in 1980, but the Native Chaco people began creating the center long before. Plans for construction began in the 800’s and lasted over 300 years. Feel the spiritual connection between the buildings, earth and the sky. The Mountains stand guard over the great houses like protectors during the day, and the stars shine over the great houses like a tour guide leading the way in the night.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Go for a drive around the loop and watch ancient history go by with every passing moment. The center that once traded turquoise, shells, copper bells and cocoa has stood the test of time. Ruins of the highly sophisticated great houses, kivas, and roads built with stone tools, reveal the Chaco people had advanced masonry skills.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Wander along the sacred sites in the footsteps of the Chaco people by exploring the park on foot. In the video I show you two accessible trails that were recommended to me by the ranger. Both trails can be accessed from the same parking area.

Photography by Randy Martinez ©2021


Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Park your car at Pueblo Bonito, walk to the left towards Hungo Pavi, and come to the largest great house. Pueblo Bonito once had over 600 rooms, reached over 4 stories and hosted 40 kivas.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Hike to the right towards Chetro Ketl and you'll reach another of the largest great houses. Gaze upon views of the lower sections of the building, the kiva and an elevated plaza as you make your way along the trail.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


Go past the ruins to the tall rocks, and have fun trying to decipher ancient petroglyph art along the way back to the parking lot.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


These sites will leave you so inspired by the skills of the Chaco People, it'll make you want to stay in the park and camp under the stars. Site #11 can accommodate wheelchair users. Attend a star party hosted by The Chaco Night Sky Program and see why the park was designated as international Dark Sky Park in on August 19, 2013. Have your camera ready to photograph the night sky, use a telescope, or learn about astronomy and the importance of ending light pollution.

Photography by Denise Vasquez ©2021


The park is a sacred archeological site. Leave no trace, do not remove anything from any location, and stay on designated trails. Be aware of the environment at all times. The weather can change at any moment and flooding at the park causes roads to be impassable.


To learn more about the park visit https://www.nps.gov/chcu/index.htm


It takes a lot of time, research, money, travel, content creation, editing and more to make this project possible. If you enjoy The Disabled Photographer Project and "How Accessible Is Accessible" series, and find my efforts valuable, you can help support the project by making a donation Here:

I am also currently seeking partnerships, sponsors, grants, and ambassadorships. For inquiries contact me, Denise Vasquez via email at denisevasquezphotography@gmail.com


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