Canyon de Chelly is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation. The National Monument was established on April 1, 1931, as a unit of the National Park Service. The name Chelly is a Spanish borrowing of the Navajo word Tséyiʼ, which means “Canyon”. Canyon de Chelly is one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America because it preserves ruins of the early indigenous tribes that lived in the area, including the Ancient Pueblo Peoples and Navajo. The monument covers 83,840 acres and encompasses the floors and rims of the three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument.
These canyons were cut by streams with headwaters in the Chuska Mountains just to the east of the monument. None of the lands is federally owned. In 2009 Canyon de Chelly National Monument was recognized as one of the most-visited national monuments in the United States.
This somewhat little-known canyon is not as immediately remarkable as others in Arizona or Utah, but it does have sheer sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, quite a few scenic overlooks, and many well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and the area offers a captivating insight into the present-day life of the Navajo, who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.
Canyon de Chelly long served as a home for Navajo people before it was invaded by forces led by future New Mexico governor Lt. Antonio Narbona in 1805. In 1863 Col. Kit Carson sent troops to either end of the canyon to defeat the Navajo population within. The resulting devastation led to the surrender of the Navajos and their removal to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Canyon de Chelly is entirely owned by the Navajo Tribal Trust of the Navajo Nation. It is the only National Park Service unit that is owned and cooperatively managed in this manner.
Nearly 40 Navajo families live in the park. Access to the canyon floor is restricted, and visitors are allowed to travel in the canyons only when accompanied by a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide. The only exception to this rule is the White House Ruin Trail.
The beautiful and spiritual Canyon de Chelly has a long history with its magnificent and ancient cliff dwellings and mysterious pictograph and petroglyphs. Here you can have plenty of opportunities for photo stops and conversations with a knowledgeable Navajo guide.
Most of park visitors come by automobile and view the Canyon de Chelly from the rim, following both North Rim Drive and South Rim Drive. Moreover, ancient ruins and geologic structures are visible, but in the distance, from turnoffs on each of these routes. Deep within the park is Mummy Cave. It features structures that have been built numerous times in history.
The national monument has a well-stocked visitor center, nearby an excellent campsite (Cottonwood Campground) with basic facilities, however, no showers and plenty of sites, nestled beneath large cottonwood trees and at lodgings in the vicinity of the canyon. There is no fee to enter the canyon, apart from any charges imposed by tour guides.
Lodgings for visitors are located in the vicinity of the canyon, on the road leading to Chinle, which is the adjacent town. The National Monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 25, 1970. The unique geologic feature of the park is, Spider Rock is a sandstone spire that rises 750 feet from the canyon floor at the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. Spider Rock can be seen from South Rim Drive. It has been shown in a number of television commercials.
According to traditional Navajo beliefs, the taller of the two spires is the home of Spider Grandmother. If you have some time to explore, don’t miss the well-preserved Puebloan ruins nestled in the 1,000-foot-tall rock walls, accessible only via guided tour. With your guide, you can drive through the Chinle Wash to view the scattered settlements and ancient ruins of the canyon. At the end of the South Rim Drive, you will come to the popular overlook of Spider Rock. Despite the fact, most hiking requires an authorized Navajo guide.
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Canyon de Chelly is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.
Canyon de Chelly is located in northeastern Arizona within the boundaries of the Navajo Nation.
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