Thursday, April 24, 2008

Inner Canyon Tour at Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly National Monument is entirely inside the Navajo Indian Reservation in NE Arizona. Besides being a spectacular natural feature with 700 foot sheer sandstone walls, it has two cultural overlays.

It is the traditional center of Navajo territory since their arrival in the area 500 years ago, and it has ruins of the collapsed Anasazi pueblo culture that moved out 700 years ago.

The rim drives are open at all times but the inner canyon is restricted. A good way to see visit the rest of the canyon bottom is to take one of the 4 wheel drive tours. The tour I took started at the Thunderbird Lodge and entered at the canyon mouth. The tour lasted nearly four hours and started up the north arm, called Canyon del Muerto continueing to just past the Antelope House ruin.

There were about 20 on the tour in a big 4 x 4 truck outfitted with padded seats. The driver was a Navajo whose family had a camp in north arm and who had been giving tours for 27 years.

The Antelope House Ruin is visible from above at one of the overlooks along the north rim. Navajo Fortress is visible from the same area.

Along the way. besides the ruins and the lush scenery at the canyon bottom, we passed the summer activities of Navajo families, some farming and herding, and children playing in the water.

The massive cliffs that form the walls of the canyon are De Chelly Sandstone. The De Chelly Sandstone was deposited as dunes in an arid environment about 250 to 230 million years ago. The caprock along the canyon is known as the Shinarump Conglomerate, a layer of stream deposited sand and gravel.

We turned around and went back down Canyon Del Muerto and up the Canyon de Chelly arm to the White House ruins. This ruin can be visited by trail also.

There is a lot of rock art along the way in lower parts of the Canyon de Chelly. The tours may go past these sites quickly, or the views may just be from the vehicle. Near the Canyon mouth is Kokopelli Cave. On the left side of the cave are pictographs of handprints and a reclining flute player.

There is also a site near the canyon mouth called Newspaper Rock and Triangle Man just across from it. Newspaper Rock has many images but they are hard to see without binoculars. Whether the tour stops at these sites might depend on the guide.

A short distance before the Antelope House is a site called Black Bull Cave. Here there are some broad shouldered painted figures and hand prints. The yellow image is a flute player but is hard to see.

(I later took a tour in a jeep and saw some more of the details in this area, particularly the small ruins sites. Use the label "Canyon de Chelly Tours".)

528614_Cool Camo Russell Outdoors

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