13. Fajada Butte

Fajada butte ("banded butte") rises 115 meters above the canyon floor to an elevation of 2019 meters. It stands in a prominent 3 kilometer wide gap in Chacra Mesa, which delineates the South wall of Chaco Canyon. The summit of the butte offers commanding views of the canyon and of the vast expanses to the South, and as such, makes a unique observation site, either for astronomical or surveillance purposes. Despite the difficulty of the climb up the butte and the lack of available water, ruins of a few of small dwellings are found along some of the higher cliff bands around the butte. Analysis of pottery fragments recovered on the butte indicates that it was at least visited starting in the tenth century.

Fajada butte, Chaco Canyon image
Fajada butte, Chaco Canyon, at sunrise on 21 June 1997, seen from the Northeast.

In recent years evidence has been uncovered that a large ramp had been built on the SW face of the butte, to facilitate its ascent. The ramp, 230 meters long and rising almost 100 meters above the valley floor, was apparently constructed in three sections. The first followed an erosional ridge to the first prominent cliff band on the butte. The second was a heavy masonry structure that extended from the top of the first cliff band to the second cliff band, along which ruins of numerous small cliff dwellings are to be found. The final part of the ramp was likely a combination of carved steps and scaffolding structures. Even by Chacoan standards, this represents a construction project of a significant magnitude, and suggests that the butte might have played an important ceremonial role at Chaco. The so-called 3-slab site (next page "14. The 3-Slab Slit") is located at the foot of the uppermost 10-meter high cliff band, approximately at the center of the butte as seen on this photograph.