Sunday, June 26, 2011

Junction Ruins to Standing Cow-Canyon de Chelly

Junction Ruins to Standing Cow Ruins is the lower and middle part of the Canyon del Muerto arm of the Canyon de Chelly National Monument in northeast Arizona. To visit the inner canyon areas visitors must be accompanied by a Navajo Guide or a Park Ranger.

I went on a private half day jeep tour to just the del Muerto arm, from the canyon mouth to Mummy Cave Ruins. The standard half day tours visit as far as Standing Cow and then visit the Canyon de Chelly arm as far as White House ruins.

The Junction Ruins are located at the junction of Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto. They are visible from the Junction overlook on the south rim drive. On the tour I took, Junction Ruins was the fourth stop and it took about 0:20 minutes of sandy driving to get here. The sites near the canyon mouth can be hiked to on the Tunnel Trail hike. In 2011, this free hike is being offered on Friday mornings.
After Junction Ruins there is a succession of small sites and it is hard to keep them straight. The sites are called Echo Ruins, Small Cave, Ceremonial Cave, and Round Corners. Most of the sites in the Canyon de Chelly area are in alcoves above the canyon floor and are viewed from a distance.

At one time, there was a north rim overlook of Ledge Ruins, but this overlook has been closed for a long time. In addition to the obvious small group of structures, there are two small storage structures in an alcove to the left. In the vicinity of Ledge Ruins there is another site high on the cliffs called Bridge Ruins.

Antelope House is the largest of the sites in Canyon del Muerto except for Mummy Cave. It appears to be the only one with structures that sit on the canyon floor. The interpretive sign at the Antelope Overlook says that building here began in 700 AD and continued on and off for 600 years. Most of what we see was constructed after 1050 AD. There is also an interpretive sign at the site that explains how these structures were built.
The park brochure says that Antelope House has an unusual circular plaza. It’s hard to see the circular plaza at the site but it is visible from the overlook to the right of the tall tower.

My guide mentioned that Antelope House might have been a trading center as pottery of many different styles was found there.

The Antelope House name comes from the series of pictographs along the left side of the site. The drawings are attributed to a Navajo who lived here in the early 1800s.
Standing Cow Ruins is a small site but has the interesting large cow pictograph. I think this was done by the same artist who we see at Antelope House. To the right of the cow, it looks like there are some vague white flute player images.

Just before the Standing Cow is the Narbona Panel, depicting the 1805 Spanish massacre that gives Canyon del Muerto its name. I didn’t get close enough to it to get a good picture, but it is a detailed and interesting panel. The normal half day group tour usually turns around at Standing Cow Ruin and returns to the canyon junction, then up Canyon de Chelly. From Standing Cow it is about 0:40 minutes of travel to the large Mummy Cave Ruins.

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