Canyon de Chelly, The Canyon and the People

There is no entrance fee to enter the park.  However, access to the canyon floor is restricted and can be accessed only when traveling with a park ranger or a Navajo guide.  The only exception to this is the White House Ruin trail. Most park visitors arrive by automobile and view the monument from the rim, taking either the North Rim or the South Rim drives where ancient ruins and geologic structures are visible in the distance from turnoffs along these drives.  Private, Navajo-owned companies offer tours of the floor by horseback, hiking or 4-wheel drive vehicle.   


Stream crossing

This stream crossing is just one example why transportation through the valley floor is by horseback, wagon or 4-wheel drive.   


Stuck at stream crossing

And if the previous image doesn't convince you that the roads are treacherous, this one should, which came from the trip with our camera club (Enchanted Lens Camera Club of Albuquerque).  Actually, all of the images in this blog came from that trip in April of 2015...obviously the rainy season!  Much of the time your guide will be driving through and along the Rio de Chelly river, which flows a tortuous course westward from its origination in the Chuska Mountains and empties into the Chinle Wash just west of the monument.    


White House Ruins 

In the canyons are several hundred ruins of prehistoric villages, most of them built between A.D. 350 and 1300. White House Ruins, above is one of the most visited and best known Anasazi cliff dwellings in the floor of Canyon de Chelly canyon.  These ruins are also accessible by taking a hike from the canyon rim along a 2-1/2 mile trail from the White House overlook.  This hike does not require that you be with a park guide, but you must stay on the trail to and from the ruin.


Navajo Home

Across the river from where we made a stop is one of the 40 or so homes of the Navajo people who live in the canyon.


Navajo Girl

This little girl came splashing across the river from the home we saw in the previous photo to try and sell the jewelry she carried to our photography group.  I hope her trip was well worthwhile, since the expression on her precious face seems to indicate that she is not too happy about being a sales person.


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Another little girl from one of the nearby homes, with her dog, having a good time wading in the water...typical of children.  Why walk on dry land when you can splash in the water!

Best Friends   


As we drove along and through the river here are a few of the cliff dwellings we thought were particularly interesting. 


Upper White House Ruin


Junction Ruin


Junction Ruin, Wide View, including river and cliff 



And, here are some of the Navajo people who came out to entertain us, and tell their stories.


Navajo stone carver. 


The story teller.  



The drummer.

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Probably the most fascinating features of the canyon are the hundreds of petroglyphs carved into the walls of the canyon, which, if you know how to interpret them, tell the story of the inhabitants going back hundreds of years!


Red Rock Petroglyphs. 



Petroglyphs on Canyon Wall.


Petroglyphs: The Hunt.


There are many interesting and dramatic sandstone formations in the floor of the canyon.  Although the erosion that formed the canyon itself was caused by running water, the sandstone formations were created by wind.  This type of sandstone is known for its swirling contours that create the appearance of a petrified desert landscape.  We've included a few of the more dramatic ones here.


Buttress Rock


Sandstone Bedrock


Dog Rock (a different view of Buttress Rock)


Cat Rock


Spider Rock is one of the most spectacular landmarks of the canyon, rising around 800' from the canyon floor.  According to Navajo lore it is the home of Spider Woman, who was the first to weave the web of the universe and taught Din'eh (Navajo people) to create beauty in their lives and to spread the "Beauty Way" teaching of balance within the body, mind and soul.  

Spider Rock and Cholla


Although you could write a book about Canyon de Chelly, and many have, our object here is to give you just a tiny hint of the visual feast for the eyes that is provided for visitors to this incredible canyon.  If you've never been there, you'll definitely want to add it to your "bucket list!"


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