"A brief encounter with a special place" Top 5 Page for this destination Canyon de Chelly National Monument by toonsarah

Contemplating the view, Canyon de Chelly

The Canyon de Chelly is one of the longest continually inhabited landscapes in North America, and it is the combination of stunning natural scenery with signs of both past and present human habitation that give it its unique character.

Today it is home to the Navajo and sits entirely on their land, so the National Monument is jointly administered by them and the National Parks Service.

The Canyon floor has been inhabited for thousands of years: primitive peoples lived here 2,000 years ago; the Anasazi civilisation of the twelfth century dominated this whole region (before suddenly and inexplicably disappearing) and has left its remains here; and today the Navajo, who have lived here for the last 300 years, and who still rear sheep and goats in the canyon, and plant their crops.

There are three main ways to explore the Canyon: driving along one or both of its rims, with stops at the frequent pullouts; a hike to the White House Ruins (the only permitted unguided access to the Canyon floor); or a guided tour with one of the local Navajo.

We were short of time, having been overly optimistic about how much we could pack into a day on this trip, so we settled for a Rim Drive, and as the South Rim is considered better for photos in the afternoon and also take you closer to the rim in more places, it was easy to decide that this should be the one.

Our visit here was way back in 1993. Memories are hazy and the old photos a bit the worse for wear. But the Canyon de Chelly was one of the highlights of the trip for us – the scenery rather different from the red rocks of Utah, less dramatic maybe than the Grand Canyon, but fascinating for the close relationship between the landscape and the peoples who once inhabited it as well as those who still do.

And while my tips are a bit short on facts (although I have made the effort to research a few to go alongside the memories and give them some substance) I hope you’ll enjoy them and get a sense of the special qualities of this place.

Pros and Cons
  • In a nutshell:Landscape and people inter-twined
  • Last visit to Canyon de Chelly National Monument: Jun 1993
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (8)

Comments (8)

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Feb 24, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Good that you scanned your old slides – they still look fine! I’ve never been to Canyon de Chelly but have long been curious about it because a former girlfriend of mine once worked there as a volunteer archaeologist.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Mar 18, 2010 at 11:56 PM

    Marvellous again :-) I was here twice, in fact also 1993, but in winter. And I remember that mysterious illness, the people still talked about it then.

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Mar 16, 2010 at 4:22 AM

    Your recollection of what you did here at Canyon de Chelly in the 90's is amazing Sarah. Pictures have also stood the test of time and are brilliant. Well done.

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Mar 10, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    What a wonderful job you have done with your early 90's trip...I found the photographs brilliant and not at all "worse for the wear". I'm glad you decided to visit and stay in the hotel even with the "mystery illness". This was a great read and view.

  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo
    Mar 9, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    Nice to see your account of a controversial park for us, Sarah. Particularly interesting about the gateway town. Did you photoshop these "faded photos?" If not, they've held up a lot better than my shots from the time period!

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Mar 8, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    Another lovely little page of yours. I think that I would definitely need to wear a hat in this place in summer. :-)

  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo
    Mar 5, 2010 at 7:15 AM

    Love this place - we were there in winter - the only guests at Thunderbird Lodge - red rock and white snow a stunning combination - a poster of Navajo pots brought back hangs in my kitchen.

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Mar 3, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    The thought of cultures living in the valley and on the rim, while enjoying this beauty when they got up daily must have impressed them, even back then. Good job of describing.


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