Bouncing Down the Road to Chaco Canyon
Some of the best treasures lie at the end of dirt roads. Green River Lakes in Wyoming is one of them. Another is the Horseshoe Canyon annex of Canyonlands National Park. And a third would be Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.
That last one requires a tooth-jarring ride down 16 miles of dirt road that at times can turn to washboard. So bouncy can the road be that San Juan County officials say it can turn downright "rough and dangerous." Their solution? Pave every one of those 16 miles with a chip-seal slurry that, while not quite as smooth as a thick layer of asphalt, would make the road more passable.
But is that a good decision? It certainly would lessen the time it takes to reach the historical park, and it could allow much bigger, and longer, vehicles, such as RVs, to make the drive. But workers at the historical park say they already are approaching their upper limit of visitation, with some 60,000 visitors tolerating the washboard drive each year.
And members of the Chaco Alliance fear easier access could lead to vandalism of the park's ruins.
Sadly, more and more dirt roads are meeting their demise these days, smeared with asphalt that, while definitely smoothing out the drive, leads to more traffic that demeans the very treasures at the end of the road.
For more on this issue, check out Ranger X's take on paving this road.