We next visited Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation. It is a national monument that is still inhabited by a few Navajo residents. It’s name in Navajo meant, water comes from it. Right now they are in the middle of a six year drought and so it is pretty dry. Organized tours require a native guide. The terrain is a little rough and four wheel drive or horses are required. Here is our guide:
The canyon splits into a North and South Canyon early. We elected the half day tour and spent most of our time in the North Canyon – Canyon del Muerto. Here is a google map picture of the canyons.
We got a cabin at Thunderbird Lodge in the mouth of the canyon. We took the tour in the morning and got overview pictures on our way to Great Salt Lake.
The canyon was inhabited by the Anasazi, Navajo and Hopi tribes over time. Both the Spaniards and the US Army committed atrocities against the local peoples. Some of it is documented on the canyon walls.
It is hard to image how large the canyons are. Here are some rim views from the South Canyon.
Canyon de Chelly Overlook
The ride through the canyon was rough. The guide was informative. It was worth the price for a guided tour.
There were horses in these and so it is after the time of the Spaniards. The story he told about the horse and deer was that the hunters used to tire the deer out by running it and then suffocate the deer so they would have an unblemished deer for ceremony. The jumping man is likely a dancer at ceremony.
It is important to remember that the canyon floor was not where it is today when these structures were built. The structures were built into the North Face to get the winter sun. The summer was spent on the canyon floor. The winter could be very cold on the floor as it did not get sun in the winter.
The story about the Spanish Priest is a sad one. The priest and soldiers can to the canyon to gather some slaves when the men were out hunting. One of the women resisted the soldiers killing one. The other women and children were hiding in a cave and the Spaniards opened fire killing over one hundred women and children.
Around the time of the American Civil War there was a deportation of the Navajo from their ancestral lands. Some Navajo resisted and climbed to the top of this mesa. You can see the ladders they used. Apparently Kit Carson was among the soldiers relocating the Navajo. The was the Navajo ‘Trail of Tears’ and among the Navajo it is called ‘The Long Walk.’
Meg and I agreed that the half day tour was more than enough. We both enjoyed the tour.
Mark and Meg
- Road Trip 1 – The Beginning
- Road Trip 2 – Sequoia NP, Death Valley and Hoover Dam
- Road Trip 3 – Phoenix
- Road Trip 4 – Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest National Park
- Road Trip 5 – Grand Canyon
- Road Trip 6 – Canyon de Chelly
- Road Trip 7 – Great Salt Lake – Antelope Island
- Road Trip 8 – Dinosaur National Monument
- Road Trip 9 – Rocky Mountain National Park
- Road Trip 10 – Wilson’s Creek Battlefield