Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Our last excursion before departing New Mexico was to Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Chinle, Arizona.  It was just under 100 miles north of our campground.

From the ruins, artifacts, and images, it has been proven that people lived in these canyons for nearly 5,000 years, longer than anyone has lived uninterruptedly elsewhere on the Colorado Plateau.

Today, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “da Shay”) is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land.  In 1931, the U.S. National Park Service established it as a National Monument, and they continue to this day to work in partnership with the Navajo Nation to manage park resources and sustain this living Navajo community.

Canyon de Chelly has two paved rim drives with overlooks and many hiking trails that lead down into the canyon.  We arrived early afternoon and drove the two rims, stopping at all the overlooks.

The North Rim Drive is 18 miles long one way with 3 overlooks and best photographed in the morning, whereas the South Rim is best in the afternoon.  I did struggle with my exposures and the intense early afternoon bright sun on the North Rim Drive.

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As you took in the views at the overlooks, if you looked hard enough, you could spot numerous cliff and cave dwelling ruins.

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DSC_7930-1 61216 Mummy Cave

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The South Rim Drive is 16 miles long one way with seven overlooks.  As the afternoon got later, I was more successful with my exposure and lighting settings.  🙂

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The largest ruins we spotted on the South Rim was called the White House.  It was occupied by the Puebloans about 1,000 years ago.  You can take a 2.5 mile round trip hiking trail to this ruin if you desire.

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DSC_8018-1 61216 White House

The most famous overlook on the South Rim is Spider Rock Overlook.  Spider Rock is an 800 foot sandstone spire that rises from the canyon floor.  The overlook’s rim walkway provided so many ways to photograph Spider Rock, and I got a little carried away.  Here’s just a few…..

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Although there were about 10-12 people at Spider Rock Overlook, there were other Overlooks where we were the only two.  That was pretty awesome!

The flowers and critters seen that day at Canyon de Chelly…..

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The horses were owned by the Navajo and wandered across the roads freely.

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Rock Squirrel

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Finally, this next little bird flew right in front of me and into a tree early in the afternoon.  I have not been able to identify this one.  Anyone?

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For sure, the afternoon at Canyon de Chelly was exhilarating with lots of ooohs and aaahs!  And the solitude with nature?  Amazing!!


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