The San Juan Co-Prosperity Sphere
The best-known portions of the San Juan drainage, thanks to a century of intense archaeological work, are Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and the Four Corners region. Chaco Canyon, lying at about 6,100 feet in elevation in its most heavily settled portions, is one of a series of broad, interconnected canyons that drain off the highlands west of the continental divide in modern-day Rio Arriba and Sandoval counties, New Mexico. The Chaco River (a dry wash most of the time) drains on westward and then almost straight northward, reaching the San Juan River near modern Shiprock. Vegetation in the canyon during Anasazi times was probably much like that of today-- scattered juniper and piñon on the mesas, with a heavier growth of water- loving trees, shrubs, and grasses in the canyon bottoms. Ponderosa pine, used in construction of the Chaco towns, today grows at about 7,100 feet but may once have existed at slightly lower altitudes, especially in the period before A.D. 1100.
Farther north, in the San Juan River bottoms, elevation is considerably lower--about 5,300 feet in the Bloomfield-Farmington area. This is a fairly arid region but with somewhat warmer winters than those in Chaco Canyon. North of the San Juan, the uplands of Mesa Verde, the broad Montezuma valley, and the canyon country of Hovenweep to the west receive more rainfall. This is especially true for Mesa Verde, where the entire mesa was well timbered in early Anasazi times, as it is today.
In Chaco Canyon proper, Pueblo III times, or what is called the Classic period, are best exemplified by the massive pueblos of several hundred contiguous rooms standing several stories high. These great pueblos--Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl, and others (fig. 5), almost all on the north side of
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Publication information: Book title: Rio del Norte:People of the Upper Rio Grande from Earliest Times to the Pueblo Revolt. Contributors: Carroll L. Riley - Author. Publisher: University of Utah Press. Place of publication: Salt Lake City. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 73.
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