Arizona July 12, 2016
You Probably Didn’t Know These 13 Incredible Things About Arizona’s Canyon De Chelly
Located in northeastern Arizona on the Navajo Nation, just east of the one-stoplight town of Chinle, Canyon de Chelly is a place ripe with lush landscapes and intriguing history. It also happens to be one of the most visited national monuments in the country, seeing roughly 800,000 visitors each year. Read on for some beautiful photos of the park and some interesting facts that may (hopefully) be new to you.
1. The Navajo name for this area is
Tséyi’ (pronouned “say-yih”), translating to “within the rock” or “deep in the rock.”
2. The name Canyon de Chelly comes from the Spaniards’ attempt to pronounce
Tséyi’ and adding cañón as a noun.
3. The area typically referred to as Canyon de Chelly is actually several canyons connected together. The three major ones include Canyon del Muerto, Monument Canyon, and, of course, Canyon de Chelly.
4. Canyon de Chelly has been inhabited for centuries and that evidence is very clear with the presence of ancient cliff dwellings, which date as early as 350 AD. However, there is human evidence tracing back approximately 5,000 years!
5. There are as many as 800 known archaeological sites just within the national monument.
6. Spider Rock, the 750 foot spire that rises from the canyon’s floor, is home to and named after Spider Woman. In the Navajo creation story, she is a holy person who brought creation and beauty to the Navajo people, most notably through weaving.
7. The nearly 84,000 acres is Navajo Tribal Trust Land and is under jurisdiction of the Navajo Nation. It is the only national park or monument to operate in this way.
8. Families do still live in the canyon, which is why access is limited and visitors require a guide to tour most areas of the national monument.
9. White House Ruin trail, which leads from the canyon rim down to the floor, is the only area that does not require a tour guide.
10. Navajo Nation poet laureate and ASU professor Laura Tohe wrote and published a book of poetry centered around the canyon called
Tséyí / Deep in the Rock: Reflection onCanyon de Chelly in 2005.
11. In the centuries before forced removal, families living here grew huge crops including vast peach orchards.
12. During the Navajo Wars in the 1860s, Canyon de Chelly was considered a Navajo stronghold. 1864 was a pivotal year, however, as that was the year Colonel Kit Carson and the U.S. Army led attacks on the area, scorched earth campaigns, and eventually forced relocation and internment once homes and resources were gone across Navajo homeland.
13. Canyon de Chelly was declared a national monument in 1931 to better protect and preserve the ruins and other archaeological sites from looters. It took some convincing with the Navajo tribal council to ensure this process would not interfere with their treaty rights.
As you can see, this canyon is beautiful and incredibly historic. It’s a great spot to visit year-round but we recommend early fall when the day temperatures are a bit cooler, which means now is a good time to start planning a trip there!
If you want to check out other canyons to visit, be sure to read our article on
underrated canyons in Arizona!