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Ben at the Canyon de Chelly.
Ben at the Canyon de Chelly.
Driving through the canyons.
The magnificent Canyon de Chelly.


Thursday, August 17, 2000
If you've not had the chance to see the magnificent canyons of Arizona, here's a glimpse of Canyon de Chelly. You'll be in awe!

Arizona became the United States' 48th state in 1912. It is known as the Grand Canyon State, but it has many other natural wonders, such as Monument Valley, Montezuma Castle National Monument and Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

Canyon de Chelly is in the north-eastern tip of Arizona, located on America's largest native reservation, the Navajo Nation.

Lots of tours will take you into the canyon, but if you choose to drive yourself the park rules are that you must be accompanied by a Navajo guide.

Just in from the entrance, the canyon splits in two. The northern section is known as Canyon del Muerto and has more tales to tell. A few smaller canyons run off the two large ones.

Between 200 and 1300 AD, the Anasazi people lived in caves and made their homes high to be protected from enemies, predators and flash flooding. They mysteriously disappeared in about 1300 though their ruins remain.

The Navajo people entered the canyon in about 1700 and went through some torrid times with the Spanish, who were searching for gold. The Navajos still live in the canyon, on the floor in summer, in winter moving to the rim.

Canyon de Chelly is 42km long and contains the White House Ruin, one of the largest in the monument. It is thought there were 80 rooms originally, now there are about 60. The ruin gets its name from the white plaster on the walls of the upper section.

Spider Rock is very sacred to the Navajo people. The rock pinnacles are thought to be the home of Spider Woman, who taught the people how to weave.

Canyon del Muerto is 56km long. Here you will find the Navajo Fortress Rock where people took refuge from Kit Carson in 1863. Mummy Cave Ruin is most striking, it was named in the late 1800s after mummified bodies were found in the slopes below. The Charcoal Cave has some wonderful pictures carved and painted on its walls.

The Navajos living on the canyon floor grow corn, squash, watermelons, peaches, pears, apples and cherries, mainly for their own use. If any is left over, it is sold only to other Navajos.

They live in hogans, which are round buildings made from cedar and pine. There are older models scattered throughout the canyons, but these days the Navajos choose to live in modern versions that have roofing.


Chinle is in Arizona, a desert state in south-west US.


The Chinle Visitors Center organises Navajo guides for around $26 per hour. Guides are available year
round. They can be booked through National Parks.
Please note prices are valid at time of transmission and to the best of our knowledge are inclusive of GST.

More information

National Parks: Ph: 00111 520 674 5500
Largo Navajoland Tours: Ph: 0011 1 505 863 0050 / Fax: 0011 1 505 863 0050
Best Western: 13 1779
Qantas: 13 1313

To book your airfare online, click here!

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