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IMG_7225generalI have visited Canyon de Chelly or Tseyi (The Rock Canyon) many times—and each time is always a great adventure.  Visitors can more intimately explore ruins at Chaco Culture National Historic Park or wander on their own a bit across the landscape at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.  But Canyon de Chelly is special. Its mark of distinction is its link to the past.  Native peoples have lived in the area continuously for 4,000 years, and Navajo families still reside there today.  It is only through Navajo-led tours that visitors can wander the canyons themselves for a close look at the ruins and pictographs of the past.

broad view cottonwoods

IMG_7083Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located in Arizona within the Navajo Nation.  The area is actually comprised of the floors and rims of three major canyons:  de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument.  Its 84,000 acres of land were authorized as a National Monument in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover.  In 1970, the park was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.  The park is jointly managed by the National Park Service and the Navajo Nation. Free access is provided via the scenic rim drives and a moderate hike to one of the ruins.  Navajo guides conduct private tours (hikes, horseback or tour bus), providing access to the canyon floor.

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IMG_7097The area surrounding Canyon de Chelly offers gorgeous vistas that showcase the area flora as well as wonderful clouds.  From the road, the vistas can even belie the existence of the steep canyons that are not far off.

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IMG_7152IMG_7163This ram was hurrying to catch up with his little harem that was taking off without him alongside the road.  (I think his actions must be an example of leading from behind!)  Some horses were wandering around as well along the road and near the visitor center.

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Two scenic rim drives—The North Rim Drive (seven overlooks) and The South Rim Drive (three overlooks)—offer some dramatic views.

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tour truckdavid, tour guideThe first time I visited Canyon de Chelly, I took a bus tour through the canyon.  I especially enjoyed meeting the Navajo tour guides and ease-dropping on our senior guide talking to the guide-in-training in native Navajo.  It is a beautiful language.  I also just loved the canyon walls, the cottonwoods and the occasional wildflower evident throughout the day.

DRIVING IN

driving 2

driving home end of the day

Speaking Rock

Speaking Rock

Window Rock

Window Rock

DRIVING THROUGH THE NORTH CANYON

Tour Guide's Family Hogan

Tour Guide’s Family Hogan

north canyon 2

jimson weed datura

yellow cactus

A Coyote Wandered By

A Coyote Wandered By

north canyon near david's parents hogan

FIRST RUINS

first ruins wide

first ruins 2

JUNCTURE RUINS

juncture ruins 2

juncture ruins 1

Pictographs Near Juncture Ruins

Pictographs Near Juncture Ruins

SOME MORE PICTOGRAPHS

Hopi Hands

Hopi Hands

pictographs stray

pictographs two cows

Spanish Mural

Spanish Mural

WHITE HOUSE RUINS is accessible via a moderate hike from the surface as well as via the ground tours.  Although visitors cannot enter the ruins, the area does offer some picnic tables and bathrooms.

Trail Head

Trail Head

white house area

white house wide view

white house close

Mesa Near Spider Rock

Mesa Near Spider Rock

SPIDER ROCK is probably the best known geologic feature of Canyon de Chelly.  It is two sandstone spires, rising nearly 800 feet about the canyon floor.  Spider Woman is prominent in creation myths for several Native American peoples.  Accounts vary, but the core of the story is that Spider Woman is responsible for the stars in the sky.  She spun a web, laced it with dew and threw it into the sky, creating the stars.  Navajo stories explain that Spider Woman lives on the taller of the two spires.  Spider Woman is said to have given the rug loom and the artistry of weaving to Navajos.

spider woman rock

spider woman rock odd view

Base of Spider Rock Looks Like a Hogan

Base of Spider Rock Looks Like a Hogan

View from the Rim

View from the Rim

I encourage you to visit this wondrous place.  

Its links to the past always captivate me.

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Comments on: "Canyon de Chelly National Monument" (8)

  1. Barbara said:

    Beautiful photos and intriguing description. Looks like Paradise.

  2. I have been once and loved it. I also love to listen to the Navajo radio station when we drive in the area, just to hear the beautiful language and music they play.

    • The Navajo Radio Station!? What a great idea. Thanks. I tend to listen to CDs when I travel since reception is rarely great. I have a couple Navajo flute music CDs but the radio station will be part of my routine now.

  3. I have many fond memories of visiting the Canyon. I went 3 separate times and on two occasions I stayed at the base camping out for a week, on the private land of Navajo (Dine) hosts. The whole place is infused with so much history, sadness, and resilience all at once. I love the ancient pictographs everywhere, the stunning micro climates created on moist rock ledges (I even found an orchid growing there among ferns!), the occasional pot shards that haven’t been spirited away by archeologists, the wild flowers, rock formations, the “billy goat” trails that are mostly private and not accessible to tourists. The more I go there, the more I discover…

  4. Thanks for sharing this link. Hearing the Dine story from Lupita is remarkable. Sad, but encouraging as the Dine continue on, always moving on. I like the novelist Tony Hillerman as well as his daughter Anne Hilelrman whose main characters are Navajo Tribal Officers. One point made in one of these novels seems to capture the Dine attitude of finding a way to move forward. The point drew a distinction between the Navajo and the Hopi about drought, when the rains don’t come. The Hopi conduct a rain dance. The Navajo will find a way to walk in beauty with the drought.

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