Wetherill Cemetery

Rating: 
Round Trip Distance: 0.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 6120 - 6136 feet
Cellphone: 0 bars
Time: 15 mins.
Trailhead: Pueblo del Arroyo
Fee: $8/vehicle
Attractions: Historic cemetery, petroglyphs




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The Wetherill Cemetery is located in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico. Richard Wetherill, an amateur archaeologist who was credited with the discovery of the Cliff Palace ruin in Mesa Verde, had a homestead in Chaco Canyon that encompassed the Pueblo Bonito, Chetro Ketl and Pueblo del Arroyo great houses. He operated a trading post at the Pueblo Bonito site. Whether by hook or by crook the land passed to the government and became part of the newly created Chaco Canyon National Monument in 1907.


The trailhead for the Wetherill Cemetery is located just north of the Pueblo del Arroyo parking area. Another trail along the face of the cliff connects the cemetery and Pueblo Bonito.


The trail to the cemetery is just over 500 feet. It is primitive in nature passing through the desert shrubs of the area.


It is evident that yet another ruin of some type lies unexcavated in the same area that the trail passes through. Whether is was the site of a village or something else would be a good question for one of the Park Rangers.


It seems rather fitting that the grave marker is made from the same stone and construction as its surroundings. The spelling of his last name on the headstone differs from anything else that you can find. Richard's wife, Marietta, is interned in the same cemetery as well as a few others. Richard Wetherill was murdered by a Navajo named Chis-Chilling-Begay in 1910. His grave is located at the spot he had picked before his untimely death.


There are some petroglyphs made up of geometric symbols on the cliff near the cemetery that are interesting. There may also be a few more marks that are too faint to discern.


There is a lot of conflicting information about Richard Wetherill that makes it difficult to know for certain whether he was a good guy or not when it comes to archaeology. Some say that his methods of excavating did considerable damage to sites while others say he is responsible for their preservation. The cemetery is worth visiting for several reasons. First off is the realization that the open spaces between the great houses had structures located in some of them; the visit sparks an interest into the historical past of the area, no matter how sketchy or controversial the information is; and lastly the petroglyph panel by itself is worth the effort of the short hike. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.