Images of Arizona


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Canyon de Chelly

FYI — Canyon de Chelly National Monument is owned by the Navajo tribe, but managed by the National Park Service. No park admission fee is charged. Visitors can drive either rim for free, stopping at the various overlooks for views and photographs. To enter the canyon itself, you must be accompanied by a Navajo guide, except for the hike to the White House Ruins.

Geology: Canyon de Chelly has been carved out of sandstone for 200 million years. Cliffs rise from 30 to 1,000 feet above the canyon floor, and such outstanding rock formations as the Navajo Fortress were left behind.

History: the 84,000-acre park belongs to the Navajos, but has been occupied for as long as 5,000 years by humans. Before the Navajos, who once shared the canyon with the Hopis, were the ancestral Puebloans, sometimes called Anasazi. They built homes from the native rock and grew corn. Before the Anasazi were the Basketmakers, who were nomadic hunters and gatherers.

Rock Art: Remnants of most of the humans who have lived here can be found in the rock art on the canyon walls. Both pictographs (painted) and petroglyphs (etched) are there for the viewing. Some figures and symbols are obvious and some we can only guess at. Common motifs are deer, hunters, the legendary figure of Kokopelli (the hump-backed flute player) and handprints. Because visitors are not allowed to roam the canyons without supervisions, much of the rock art is in pristine condition.

Getting There: From Flagstaff, take Interstate 40 east, then go north on U.S. 191, past the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. The canyon entrance is about three miles from Chinle, the only town in the area.

Lodging: The only accommodations in the park are at the Thunderbird Lodge, near the mouth of the canyon. Rooms are spacious and comfortable. Information or reservations 1-800-697-2473 or Camping is available year-round at the park entrance on a first-come, first-served basis. A few other motels are in Chinle.

Tours: The general half-day (about four hours, and 31 miles) tour is offered twice a day. There is an all-day tour (eight hours, 61 miles). Or, you can get an individual and a Jeep for a couple of hours. There are tours tailored for specific purposes such as photography. Many of the tours are taken in a six-wheel drive 1950s Army troop carriers, once used in Korea. Tours are offered year-round.

Details: (520) 674-5500 or Stop at the park entrance visitor’s center. There is a small museum and a film that’s worth watching.

continued: Navajo Nation Fair >>



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