Thursday, April 3, 2014

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

    The word “spectacular” is probably too often used when writing or speaking about the natural wonders of Arizona, but spectacular is surely the most appropriate adjective when referring to Canyon de Chelly (da shay).  Located in the northeast corner of Arizona on the Navajo Nation, Canyon de Chelly is a “must see” sight for every Arizonan.
    Canyon de Chelly National Monument was created in 1931 and is unique in the National Park system as the land is entirely Navajo Tribal Trust Land.  The monuments spreads over 131 square miles and is an outdoor museum of artifacts from the indigenous people, known as the Anasazi, who once made the canyon their home.
    There are over 2700 archeological sites of petroglyphs and cliff dwellings within the national monument.  Only 13 of the 700 standing ruins have been stabilized and open to visitors.  Modern Navajo still farm the fertile valleys just as their ancestors have done for the past 700 years.
    The national monument really encompasses four different canyons: de Chelly, de Muerto, Black Rock and Monument.  Canyon walls up to 1000 foot high were cut by a series of major streams whose headwaters are located in the Chuska Mountains just east of the monument.
    The name, Canyon de Chelly, comes from the Navajo word “Tsegi” which means “among the rocks” or “rock canyon.”  The rock walls vary from red granites and quartzites to sandstone and conglomerates. The national monument is truly a geological treasure and natural textbook.
    Canyon de Chelly was also the site of many tragic encounters between the Navajo people and the Spanish conquistadors as well as the United States Army.  It was here in 1863 that Kit Carson led U.S. cavalry into Canyon de Chelly resulting in the 1864 Navajo Long Walk to Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
    Visitors to Canyon de Chelly National Monument can travel on two rim roads to view into the monument.  The South Rim Drive is 37 miles round trip and allow the visitor to look down upon the 800 foot high Spider Rock and the White House Ruin.  The North Rim Drive is 34 miles round trip and offers views of Lodge Ruin, Mummy Cave Ruin and the famous Antelope Ruin.  Both rim drives are free and open to the public and well worth the time and effort.
    To enter the canyon or to visit anywhere else in Canyon de Chelly National Monument requires a park ranger or Navajo guide.  You may drive your own four-wheel drive vehicle with a guide or reserve a tour through the many jeep/truck tour companies.   
    Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located just east of Chinle, Arizona. Visitors might choose to stay at the historic Thunderbird Lodge or the Chinle Holiday Inn.  Both hotels offer canyon tours.  Horseback tours into the canyon are also available.
    Canyon de Chelly can be very hot in the middle of the summer so springtime is an ideal time to visit.  When you go, you will have visited yet another of the many spectacular places found in our Arizona!

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A real Kokopelli

Spider Rock

More petroglyphs

White House Ruins

Rain in Canyon de Chelly

White House Ruins from the rim road

White House Ruins once again

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