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U.S. Southwest:

Canyon de Chelly

National Monument, Arizona

August 22-23 2019

(Elevation: 6,000 ft.)


Margaret Martonosi


National Park Service

The first site on our travels in the Southwest was Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument, located in the desolate beauty of the Colorado Plateau, 230 miles west of our starting point in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was also our first site dedicated to the Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi), an ancient Native American culture that began here 1,000 years ago. They are probably best known for their stone and earth dwellings, built along cliff walls in the many canyons of the Four Corners region.


National Park Service

The ruins of these dwellings are found throughout the monument, which covers the floors and rims of three major canyons: de Chelly, del Muerto, and Monument. These canyons were cut by streams which flow from the Chuska Mountains, just to the east of the Canyon de Chelly.


Canyon De Chelly National Monument was established in 1931 and covers 83,840 acres (131 sq. mi). None of the land in the national monument is owned by the federal government; it is owned and administered by the Navajo Nation, which encompasses 27,413 square miles of the Four Corners region. With a population of only 350,000 in an area the size of West Virginia, it is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the United States.

National Park Service

South Canyon Rim & Spider Rock

We explored the south rim of Canyon de Chelly during both days of our visit, stopping at several points. The rim rises a near vertical 1,000 feet above the canyon floor, and provides excellent views of the intricate canyon system and surrounding landscapes. The climax of our exploration was a spectacular view of Spider Rock, a sandstone spire, rising  700 feet above the canyon floor.

South Canyon Rim Gallery

Spider Rock


Hike to White House Ruins


White House Ruin is located in Chinle Wash, 600 feet below Canyon de Chelly's south rim. We visited the site during a 3 mile round-trip hike into the canyon, whose De Chelly Sandstone cliffs formed some 240 million years ago.

The ruins comprise a complex of dwellings, built between 750-1300 by the Ancestral Puebloans. The site, built in a massive alcove in a canyon wall, is to this day covered with an ancient layer of white plaster.


Streaks of dark desert varnish, composed of pigments and minerals streak beautifully downward from the canyon’s rim. 


White House Ruins Gallery

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