Nature has provided Arizona with some of the most stunning vistas in the world. Visiting outdoor adventurers should add Canyon De Chelly (pronounced “shay”) to their must-see list. Read below to learn about Canyon De Chelly History and Culture, where it is located and why you should stop at the visitor center before you start your adventure.
Canyon De Chelly History and Culture
Canyon de Chelly National Monument was authorized in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover in large measure to preserve the important archeological resources that span more than 4,000 years of human occupation. The monument encompasses approximately 84,000 acres of lands located entirely on the Navajo Nation with roughly 40 families residing within the park boundaries.
Millions of years of land uplifts and stream cutting created the colorful sheer cliff walls of Canyon de Chelly. Natural water sources and rich soil provided a variety of resources, including plants and animals that have sustained families for thousands of years. The Ancient Puebloans found the canyons an ideal place to plant crops and raise families. The first settlers built pit houses that were then replaced with more sophisticated homes as more families migrated to the area. More homes were built in alcoves to take advantage of the sunlight and natural protection. People thrived until the mid-1300’s when the Puebloans left the canyons for better farmlands.
Hopi – Canyon De Chelly History and Culture
Descendants of the Puebloans, the Hopi migrated into the canyons to plant fields of corn and orchards of peaches. Although the Hopi left this area to permanently settle on the mesa tops to the west, the Hopi still hold on to many of their traditions that are evident from their homes and kivas.
Navajo – Canyon De Chelly History and Culture
Related to the Athabaskan people of Northern Canada and Alaska, the Navajo settled the Southwest between the four sacred mountains. The Navajo, or Dine’ as they call themselves, continue to raise families and plant crops just as the “Ancient Ones” had. The farms, livestock and hogans of the Dine’ are visible from the canyon rims.
Canyon De Chelly Visitor Center
The Canyon De Chelly Visitor Center is 3 miles (4.8 km) from Route 191 in Chinle, AZ. From Flagstaff, AZ, take I-40 East then Hwy 191 North. From Gallup, NM, take Hwy 264 West then Hwy 191 North. From Kayenta, AZ, take Route 59 Southeast then Hwy 191 South.
There is no entrance fee for the park and we recommend beginning your visit at the visitor center where you can pick up a brochure, stamp your passport, browse the park store and watch the orientation video.
To learn more about Canyon De Chelly History and Culture, please visit the National Parks Service website below.