Canyon de Chelly National Monument – Arizona

Indian ruin site

In 1931, Arizona ‘s Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established by then-US President Hoover to protect the area’s archaeologically significant ruins. The size of the protected area is 340 kmĀ². The region is said to have been inhabited by people 4,500 years ago. Today, the entire area belongs to the Navajo Native Americans. Canyon de Chelly National Monument is administered by the Navajo people in conjunction with the National Park Service. Today about 40 families live in the canyon from agriculture and tourism. About 850,000 tourists visit the “De Chelly Canyon” every year.

Native American White House ruins

Branched canyon system

Canyon de Chelly Conservation Area is located between Monument Valley and Petrified Forest National Park in northeastern Arizona. Overall, Canyon de Chelly National Monument includes four deep canyons in an otherwise relatively flat landscape. The four large canyons have further branching side canyons. The most important are the Canyon del Muerto with a length of about 29 km, the main canyon de Chelly has a length of 42 km. The Monument Canyon with 16 km and the Black Canyon are also important.

Well-visited monument in Arizona

According to liuxers, the canyon itself may only be entered in the company of a Navajo guide. The exception is the visit to the White House Ruins at the Cliff Dwellings. If you can afford it, you should visit the canyons in autumn or spring. In summer it is quite hot at the edge of the canyons and overall the reserve is overrun with tourists in summer. Canyon de Chelly National Monument is open year-round. Entrance fees are not charged. Snapshots of private Navajo settlements or people can be taken upon request and a small donation.

Canyon de Chelly, Arizona

Green oases in the canyons

The walls of the canyons drop mostly steeply down to a depth of 300 meters. The meandering and gently flowing Chinle Creek flows through the bottom of the canyons and made possible the agricultural use of the region in earlier times. Even in very dry years, the soil has a certain basic moisture content. At the bottom of the gorges there are green and fertile soils here and there. Even today, the Navajo Native Americans use these green oases for agriculture.

The Anasazi and their successors

From the vantage points you can see the ruins of the ancient Anasazi settlement. They built their dwellings in the natural niches of the rock faces. After the Anasazi, Hopi peoples came to the region. Ultimately, the Navajo settled in the Canyon de Chelly area in the early 1800’s.

Spider Woman?

The Visitor Center is located near the village of Chinle. Maps and information about Canyon de Chelly National Monument are available there. In the Visitor Center, the settlement history of the canyons is illustrated and explained. A path usually leads along the edge of the canyon and leads to various viewpoints along the canyon. Well known is the Spider Rock, which has the shape of a rock needle. It is said that strange things happen there. That’s where Spider Woman is said to live, who fetches and eats disobedient children. There is also an easy trail through the canyons themselves.

Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly

By car through the gorges

The canyons can be driven in off-road vehicles, but this is subject to a fee for visitors and only possible when accompanied by a Navajo. You then drive past scattered settlements and the ruins and artifacts of the Canyon’s former inhabitants. Visiting the canyons may be prohibited at high tide, eg after heavy downpours.

Camping at the Cottonwood Campground

There is also a campsite near the visitor center. The free campsite, the Cottonwood Campground, is very basic. It has numerous parking spaces, showers are not available there. Sometimes stray dogs run around on the area, but they are mostly harmless.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument