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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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!!


43 thoughts on “Canyon de Chelly National Monument

  1. Wow Donna, you blow me away! what amazing pics of an amazing place the architecture of an amazing Creator.. Thanks for sharing. You guys are having a wonderful adventure together, that is just soooo good! Enjoy!

    • At times, I felt like I was viewing a huge painting. Our Creator is quite the artist indeed! Thanks so much, Ashley, we are having a grand time, the hardest is trying to plan future destinations, there are so many directions we want to head that are all beautiful. The Southwest U.S. is much more than I could have imagined! 🙂

    • Hubby agrees with you, lol. We’ve since been to the Grand Canyon, and he couldn’t handle looking over the edges, or watch me look over the edges. I am surprised it hasn’t bothered me. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Hien! I am sure if I returned, I’d find more things that I didn’t see before either. It was beautiful and I loved that there were so few people there during our visit. Just wished we could have hiked some of it! 🙂

  2. A few years back I visit this canyon and I was very delighted with all that I saw. I guess you were too! Fantastic photos, they’ll make a great photo album. 🙂

  3. I’m so glad you enjoyed de Chelly. We didn’t get to do the north rim because of the snow we ran into. It’s great to get a peek through your lens. Looks like you’re really enjoying your adventures!

  4. Donna, amazing photos! I have been there in person and still your photos are showing me things I’ve never seen! Beautiful stuff and I’m so glad you have retired and are traveling to such interesting places! hehe! 😀

  5. Well ths place is definitely worth the drive-beautiful! Like the horse, lizard and squirrel shots as well as the caves-so many! I was so entranced by the cacti flowers when I first saw them and you have captured them so well!Did a river or lake exist here thousands of years ago?Did you get a time estimate for the cliff dwellers? Hope you had lots of water with you. Thanks for sharing and I agree with one of the commenters that it deserves an albumn or a photo book.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Jane! I couldn’t stop looking for caves and dwellings, there were so many. Yes, at one time water did stream through the canyon along with occurring land uplifts, creating the lush canyon and water resources for the earliest settlers 5,000 years ago. It is indeed well worth a visit if anyone is anywhere near this park. 🙂

  6. Donna, these are beautiful!! It brings back memories of our trip through there in 2012. One of my favorites was Antelope Ruins on the north rim. At that time the camera I was using was my little Kodak Easyshare with a good German Schneider lens, but I can see a world of difference between my photos and yours. Great job! I remember having Navajo fry bread at a restaurant nearby at dinner, and liking it so much I had it again for breakfast.

    • Thanks so much, Susan! I used both my wide angle and zoom lens throughout the park. I have two camera bodies now so I don’t have to switch lens so often and can sling my wide angle over my shoulder. 🙂 Seeing all the ruins and caves throughout were incredible here! I also tried the Navajo fry bread that was created into a large ‘Navajo taco’. It was great!

  7. Donna, I should have clarified the ‘world of difference’ — your photos are far, far superior to any that I took!

  8. Absolutely mind-blowing images, Donna. Those ruins conjure up all sorts of pictures in one’s mind of who might have built and inhabited them. Love the horses, especially the white one, and that yellow flower is magnificent. Looks like you’re having great adventures. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Sylvia, our adventure so far has been a blast. I too had my mind running on what life must have been like when looking at the ruins and caves. Amazing and humbling.

  9. Great shots Donna! I’ve not been there (it’s on my “bucket list” like so many other great venues). My parents made the trip there many years ago. We still have my father’s photo of Spider Rock. Re: exposure challenges… landscape shots in the Southwest can be challenging due to high contrast lighting (bright, sunny sky and rock glint vs. dark, deeply shadowed areas). A circular polarizer might help a bit (for the sky and glint). You could also try 3 exposures in relatively quick succession 1 stop apart using the High Dynamic Range (HDR) technique. Take 1 shot under exposed, 1 shot over exposed, and 1 shot at “normal” exposure. It’s desirable to shoot on a tripod to ensure the 3 shots are aligned… but if don’t have a tripod, brace your camera and take the 3 shots in quick succession and they can be easily aligned/blended later in Photoshop.

    • Thanks so much Steve for the exposure advice! The circular polarizer sounds like a great idea, I could try the 3 shots as well. I’ve not been carrying my tripod, I’ve had enough with the two cameras and lens, and worrying about tripping as it was. Hubby isn’t so keen on getting up real early to go see “red rock” when I could have better exposures, but I’m not complaining. 😉 I’ve been to the Grand Canyon once so far, late afternoon to sunset in bright sun and haze, but am planning on going back early morning on my own in few days. I’m anxious to see the difference in my shots at the two different times of day. Gosh, I so wish I could handle my tripod too! But most importantly, I am taking in the view without the lens and am in utter amazement at the sights of the Southwest so far. I have to keep picking up my jaw. 🙂

  10. Wow, what an amazing, wild, inviting and beautiful place. So enjoyed your photos-except Spider Rock, it made my feet tingle! hugs

  11. wow, 🙂 very beautiful sequence of pictures. It looks like the canyon I should put on my list of “places to see” on my next vacation!!!

    • Thanks, it is beautiful Alexa, and knowing the Navajo still live in the canyon is amazing. I didn’t include any photos of their homes, out of respect to them. It is humbling.

      • I think you are right there…The photographer should show respect. This is their way of living on this world. 🙂 and after all who we are to judge? Have a lovely day! 🙂

  12. Fascinating pictures of the merge of nature and history! The ruins of the cave dwellings remind me of the cave dwellings I saw in Matmata Tunisia many years ago. Thank you for sharing!

    • It was a hidden gem with so many other places to go see. No where near the traffic of other places, we sometimes had an overlook all to ourselves. Ruins seen here and everywhere are so humbling to me, imagining life back then.

  13. Pingback: Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, Arizona – Nomad Advocate

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