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KAET's Monumental Arizona

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For all the things Arizona is, one word may describe it best. Monumental.

Monumental in its landscape. Monumental in its history. Monumental in its effort to recognize the treasures within these borders and protect them forever.

Over the last century, Arizona's people and America's presidents have worked hand in hand in the name of preservation. Today, Arizona has more national monuments than any other state in America-eighteen remarkable destinations.

And so under the official banner of natural wonders, ancient cultures and early history, this is the story of how one state so magnificently defines itself: as Monumental Arizona.


Canyon de Chelly

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From the air, Canyon de Chelly in northeast Arizona appears as a mysterious, meandering crack in the earth…a secret, lost world that even the sun has trouble finding.

Canyon de Chelly is a naturalsandstone cradle that has nurtured native peoples for more than 3000 years. It was declared a national monument in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover for both its geologic and historic value. The Navajo, or Dine, are the most recent native people to live here, their farms squeezed between cottonwood groves and canyon walls.

According to Navajo legend, Spider Rock is home to Spider Woman-a deity who created many gods on earth and in the heavens. She taught the Navajo how to weave and is their holy protector. The Navajo believe Spider Woman keeps watch from the very tip of the spire.

Canyon de Chelly was the home of the Anasazi people, or "ancient ancestors." They migrated here and were joined by others in time.

One of the best preserved Anasazi sites is White House Ruin. It is believed to be a home of the gods who left their signature as what the Navajo interpret as "White streak between the houses." Built around the 1100s, perhaps a dozen families occupied this village.

The Navajo arrived in Canyon de Chelly in the 1700s. But in the 1860's, U.S. government troops were ordered to forcefully remove the Navajo in a campaign to assimilate them. Some took refuge on high islands of rock, but eventually succumbed to a merciless standoff. After being interned for up to four years at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, the Navajo were allowed to return to their native homeland under U.S. government terms.

Canyon de Chelly is named for a Navajo word meaning "in the rocks." And that is where the canyon's history and beauty will remain as a national monument.


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Pipe Spring

The first white settlers who crossed northern Arizona may have been awed by the landscape. But it was a place to pass through. No water, no arable land. Surely, there were greener pastures to call home. Like here.

Some Paiute Indians knew of this oasis in the high desert. They led Mormon settlers to these burgeoning waters to be christened Pipe Spring. And the resulting ranch became the most prominent territorial outpost in what was then a young and very Wild West.

Pipe Spring was a tithing ranch, returning profits from beef and dairy stock to the Mormon Church in nearby St. George. In its heyday, hundreds of cowboys and ranch hands worked the spread.

Pipe Spring also was a fortress. The main compound, Winsor Castle, was built over the spring itself, protecting its lifeblood. It had all the comforts of civilization, furnished by its original managers, Anson and Emmeline Winsor.

Pipe Spring was a Mormon stronghold that eventually outlived its utility to the church. But its landmark status gave it a value to be protected and it became a national monument in 1923 under President Warren Harding.

And so Pipe Spring stands just as it did over a century ago. The spring still flows. And the main pond reflects all the pioneering spirit it took to build a monument.


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Ironwood

Sunrise in Ironwood Forest just northwest of Tucson. Ragged Top Mountain towers above the desert floor. Its yawning shadow crosses 129,000 acres of pristine Sonoran terrain.

Temperatures will be up over 100 today — business as usual in this country. But at daybreak, the air is cool and clear and the desert takes on its most inviting guise.

From the air, the saguaro cactus stands tall against the morning sun. And so does the Ironwood tree — but it has a more retiring presence. And that's just the way Nature intended it.

The Ironwood Tree is a modest bit of branch and leaf that may not be remarkable to the eye. But it is a "nurturer plant." The Ironwood tree shelters young cactus plants from excessive heat and cold. It provides nesting for birds and forage for bighorn sheep. Even its life span is monumental — up to 800 years.

For its biological and prehistoric significance, Ironwood Forest was duly recognized in the year 2000 when President Bill. Clinton awarded it national monument status.


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Navajo

Tsegi Canyon in Navajo National Monument. Now part of Navajo Nation, the Hopis once claimed this land as the home of their ancestors-the Hisatsinom, "people of long ago." A sacred migration in the 13th century probably led ancient tribes into these canyons, which provided food, a reliable source of water and a remarkable form of shelter

Here, huge, yawning alcoves of unimaginable proportion hold entire native villages. In a grand design, the Betatakin ruin sits just out of reach of any inclement weathe — yet maximizes the arc of the sun in its daily journey.

Tucked into a sandstone wall in one of the more remote stretches of canyon is Keet Seel, or "broken pottery" in the Navajo language.

Keet Seel remains as one of the largest and best-preserved native ruins in existence. At its peak, perhaps 150 people called Keet Seel home.

When the early tribes left here, the Navajo arrived and the landscape remained sacred. For their archeological value, President Teddy Roosevelt elevated these canyons to national monument status in 1909 to be forever protected.


Chiricahua

Here stand the faithful, ever at attention. Shoulder to shoulder. Flank to flank. Like soldiers ready for battle, this army of stone has been in the making for millions of years.

The story of Chiricahua National Monument in southeast Arizona began 27 million years ago. That's when a pyrotechnic blast unrivaled by any other volcanic eruption in prehistoric North America set the sky on fire. In a geologic instant, the dark side of nature turned this land inside out.

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Then water, wind and ice took over, working silently like grains of sand through an hourglass--polishing and perfecting every surface. And this place became what the Apaches call, "Land of Standing-Up Rocks."

By the turn of the 20th century, the magic of the Chiricahuas transformed the area into a mecca for tourism. This wonderland of rocks became such a curiosity of nature, they were officially proclaimed a national monument by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924.





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Grand Canyon-Parshant
Grand Canyon National Park. There is no other place in the world where the face of the earth has been so marked by time. The side canyons here are the result of good rains, not rivers. But the effect is just the same.

One of the newer monuments, declared by President Bill Clinton in 2000, is a remote stretch of backcountry on the northern edge of the Park — Grand Canyon-Parashant.

If the Grand Canyon is a geologic main attraction, then Parashant is the understudy. Parashant has the same raw talent and beauty--but still is being groomed by nature. One million acres of canyon lands and highlands. Two billion years of geologic history. Add to these dimensions a never-ending supply of unspoiled vistas.

Grand Canyon..and Grand Canyon-Parashant. These two geologic wonders stand side by side-an entire corner of Arizona that can be described in one word: monumental.


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Organ Pipe

In this country in southwest Arizona, the air temperature hovers around 118 degrees in high summer. Ground surfaces can reach 175. And yet hundreds of species of wildlife thrive in the Sonoran desert heat. One plant even prefers a southern exposure to soak up as much sun as possible: the Organ Pipe Cactus.

This is the only place in America that the organ pipe cactus grows. The species is a spillover from vast tracts of organ pipe found south of the border.

The organ pipe does resemble the great instrument of cathedrals and temples. Some individual plants grow one hundred arms. For the organ pipe, life is a numbers game. It takes tens of thousands of seeds to yield a single plant. Then the odds are whittled down even more as the whims of nature take over. So these are the survivors-the winners-of the curious game played out in the desert. For its scientific value as a species, President Franklin Roosevelt declared Organ Pipe a national monument in 1937.

The organ pipe cactus. It's an unmistakable fixture is Arizona's most scorching tract of desert. All arms to the sun — with a slight lean towards Mexico.


Casa Grande Ruins

Man's fascination with the heavens above is endless. Kitt Peak Observatory is situated high on a mountaintop southwest of Tucson. Here scientists peer into the farthest reaches of deep space-all to understand the fundamental nature of the universe.

Ancient native people's also studied the heavens above. Experts believe one such site was erected specifically as an observatory: Casa Grande.

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In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson awarded it National Monument status. The largest structure ever built by the Hohokam, Casa Grande is Spanish for "big house." Situated on an open plain, its walls are oriented directly north, south, east and west.

The walls contain round portals. They are so placed that high priests could chart the movement of the Sun, which they believed was the Father of All. Here, one could measure time, mark the solstices and announce the seasons with precision. When to plant crops or how far off is the rainy season all were critical to survival in the desert. Those questions were answered here at Casa Grande.


Sunset Crater Volcano

The San Francisco Peaks in North Central Arizona are the crowning glory of a massive volcanic field formed two to three million years ago.

The newest addition to the geologic family is Sunset Crater. It stands just 1000 feet tall above the high desert plateau. But while its stature is diminutive in the shadow of giants, its effect on the landscape is most pronounced-especially its color.

John Wesley Powell was one of the first geologists to officially chart this territory in 1885. "The contrast in the colors is so great," he wrote, "that on viewing the mountain from a distance, the red cinders seem to be on fire."

The fire must have been spectacular to local natives. Scientists date the eruption of Sunset Crater at 1064 and believe the volcano stayed active for another 130 years. Ash drifted over 800 square miles.

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The best view of Sunset Crater is from above. The best light on the volcano is at sunset when the oxidized cinders glow their brightest. As a geologic marvel, Sunset Crater became a national monument with President Herbert Hoover's signature in 1930.


Wupatki

When Sunset Crater Volcano erupted, it forced local natives from their homeland. And so just as the cinder cone rose from the desert plain, so did new villages of the Sinagua Indians on the Antelope Prairie. The sandstone structures at Wupatki National Monument glow in the same fiery red hue as the crater's rim.

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As many as 3000 people once inhabited this open stretch of arable earth, so productive in its time, it became a trading center and brought a mix of tribal influences from the Pueblo and Hohokam.

A large circular foundation at Wupatki suggests a community room, where kachina dances may have been conducted. Kachinas are spirits of good fortune who can bring a bountiful harvest or a long-awaited rain.

The echo of ancient culture still surrounds the stone ruins of Wupatki. So magnificent are the sites, President Calvin Coolidge officially welcomed them into the ranks of national monuments in 1924.


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Vermilion Cliffs

In the far northern reaches of Arizona, the landscape leaves the high desert plains and takes a decided step up. The marked transition is the Vermilion Cliffs, an area President Bill Clinton made a national monument in the year 2000.

The earth here was put together in the most amazing fashion many millennia ago. Layer after layer of sedimentary material were neatly stacked, one on top of the other. Ancient sand dunes, dinosaur bones and lake beds all were pressed into a sedimentary timeline. As nature began to sort through remains, Vermilion Cliffs' true identity emerged.

For 38 miles, the Paria River carves a determined swath across the Colorado Plateau. It cuts the stone with such efficiency that in places, the canyon walls nearly touch. Mormon pioneer John D. Lee ventured this way in 1870 hoping for a suitable overland route to the west. He wrote in his journal, "We concluded eight days of endless toil through brush, water, ice and quicksand. For 48 hours, we couldn't even see the sun."

Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is remote and forbidding. But its other main trait is its beauty — and that is what makes people ignore John Lee's words 'til this very day.


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Native American Mystery

Over the last century, four American presidents have designated five national monuments in Central Arizona -- each a part of a puzzling ancient past.

Tonto National Monument is the former home of the Salado people. They chose the Salt River Basin for its abundant water and farmland. The ancient ruins reflect the natural wealth this setting afforded. Here they stand. Stately. Vacant.

One thousand years ago, archeologists believe that native populations were so established in the American Southwest, it may have taken just a few hours to travel between tribal encampments. Sometime in the 1200s, native peoples began to disappear. It did not begin with a particular tribe or geographic area. The experience seemed universal. Why did they leave? Where did they go?

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Agua Fria, or cold water, contains one of the most significant systems of prehistoric sites in the American Southwest with over 450 documented ruins. They remain as fingerprints across the plateau — tracing a line to a rich human past.

Walnut Canyon was home to the Sinagua Indians, Spanish for "without water." They occupied the high desert side of the canyon with a southern exposure. The opposite side is Douglas Fir forest. Hunting must have been favorable. But lack of water or perhaps too short of a growing season may have been enough reason for the Sinagua to begin leaving Walnut Canyon around 1250.

The Verde Valley was a Sinagua stronghold—a valley with ample water. But even as idyllic as the landscape is, this 110-room pueblo, called Tuzigoot, was abandoned in the 1400s.

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Montezuma Castle is such a regal structure, early settlers mistook it for an homage to the Aztec emperor. But the Sinagua deserted this place one hundred years before Montezuma was even born. A stunning relic, the castle became one of the first national monuments in America declared by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906.

So why did these ancient worlds slowly come undone? Natives today will tell you it was simply time to move on…. Migration is a fundamental part of tribal culture. Its symbol is a swirling circle motif. Find a marker and you have intersected with Arizona's ancient past.


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Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran Desert is broad expanse of wilderness sweeping up from Mexico and crossing southern Arizona from border to border. The Sonoran Desert National Monument lies in its heart.

The mountains here rise abruptly from the desert floor, providing the only relief from what otherwise would be an endless sea of sand and grit. The lone peaks are called "sky islands."

The Sonoran Desert is the most biologicallydiverse desert in America. The national monument, declared by President Bill Clinton in 2000, is a garden adorned with palo verde, cholla, prickly pear and the mighty saguaro.

Perhaps no other image so captures the essence of Arizona as the saguaro. It rises to every occasion where it can find a foothold under the merciless sun. The saguaro has been called the monarch of the desert, a totem commemorating all the stillness, peace and wonder Arizona can offer.

These are Arizona moments. Magical. Monumental.


The story of Arizona can be told through its national monuments. Many chapters are written in stone. Some are filled with desert wonder. Great histories stand beside even greater mysteries.

They say the mark of a good story is one that is passed down through the generations. And so is the tale of Arizona — inspiring, magical, monumental.


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Arizona's 18 national monuments Agua Fria Canyon de Chelly Casa Grande Ruins Chiricahua Grand Canyon Parashant Hohokam Pima Ironwood Forest Montezuma Castle Navajo Organ Pipe Pipe Spring Sonoran Desert Sunset Crater Volcano Tonto Tuzigoot Vermilion Cliffs Walnut Canyon Wupatki
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