Canyon de Chelly National Monument is about 84,000 acres entirely on the Navajo Nation in Northeast Arizona. The monument was authorized in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. Early Puebloans, ancestors of the Hopis, built cliff dwellings high in the sandstone alcoves and the canyon has been a sacred refuge to the Navajos for centuries. The Battle of Canyon de Chelly in 1864 was part of the Navajo Wars. Kit Carson waged the scorched earth campaign, destroying homes and burning the crops of the Navajos. Cold, hungry and tired, the Navajo were forced to surrender. About 40 Navajo families still live and farm in the canyon today and a guide is required to go down into the canyon, with the exception of White House Ruins.
We spent a day driving to all the overlooks, and hiking the White House Ruins. There are three overlooks on Canyon de Muerto North Rim, and another seven on Canyon de Chelly South Rim.
Spider Rock has the coolest story depending on whether you want the good or the bad. Spider Rock is a 750 foot spire that rises from the canyon floor. The two stories I read are that Spider Woman is a deity among the Navajo people and she lives on Spider Rock. When the Navajo came into this fourth world, monsters were here and killed many people. Spider Woman used her supernatural powers to send Monster-Slayer and Child-Born-Of-Water in search of their father, Sun-God, who showed them how to destroy the monsters. She has two important roles in Navajo stories; she teaches her people to weave, and she enforces obedience in children. Children are threatened that if they don’t behave, she will eat them!
White House Ruins Hike
White House Ruins is a 2.7 mile hike to….white house ruins. The trail drops 600 feet down some switchbacks and through two rock tunnels and is beautiful the whole way. The ruins at the bottom were believed to be built around 1060 AD and consisted of as many as 80 “rooms”. Luckily, I remembered our binoculars and was able to inspect the ruins up close. Impressive.