Let’s Hit the Road: SBR National Parks Club – Canyon De Chelly National Monument

Located in the northeast corner of Arizona, Canyon de Chelly National Monument (NM) is one of the longest continuously inhabited areas in North America and was established in 1931 by President Herbert Hoover to preserve its long record of human history.

At nearly 84,000 acres within the Navajo Reservation, the monument is administered by the National Park Service (NPS). The Navajo Nation works directly with the park to manage the land’s resources, making it the only NPS unit of its kind that is owned and cooperatively managed in this manner. The monument is the spiritual home to the Dine (Navajo) people and physical home to about 40 families who live in the area. To the outside world, it is known as Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “d’SHAY”). To the Dine who live there, it is referred to as Tsegi (pronounced “SAY-ih”).

Nearly 5,000 years ago, the first (Archaic) residents were hunters and gatherers. Remains of their campsites and images etched or painted on canyon walls tells us their story. Later, people we call Basketmakers built storage, social, and ceremonial spaces high on the canyon ledges. They lived in small groups, hunted game, grew corn and beans, and created wall paintings.

Ancestral Puebloan people followed. They are predecessors to today’s Pueblo and Hopi tribes, and are often called Anasazi, a Navajo word for ancient ones. They built small villages and kivas, and decorated walls that can be seen in the canyon alcoves.

About 700 years ago most people moved away, but a few remained in the canyons with some tribes spending summers hunting and farming. About 1700, the Navajo arrived. They brought domesticated sheep and goats and a way of life formed from years of migration and adaptation. They built homes, learned new crafts, and added their own designs to the ancient gallery walls.

Canyon de Chelly NM is comprised of several canyons including the large Canyon del Muerto. The canyon system contains alcoves and cliff dwellings and one of the largest concentrations of pictographs and petroglyphs in North America. Views from the canyon rims reveal scenic red cliff exposures that consist of erosion-resistant sandstone that rises in spires to 1,200 feet above the ground. The best known of these spires is Spider Rock.

Canyon de Chelly NM is approximately 260 miles from SaddleBrooke Ranch (SBR). There are several ways to see the park.

Rim Drives: Free paved rim drives are opened all year that overlook the canyon. The North Rim Drive has three designated overlooks which are best for morning photos. The South Rim Drive has six overlooks which are best for afternoon photos. It is best to allow two hours for each drive.

Ranger Led Programs: Free. Check at the Welcome Center for schedule and other details.

Canyon Floor: Access to the canyon floor is restricted. Visitors are allowed to travel in the canyons only when accompanied by a park ranger or an authorized Navajo guide.

Canyon Tours: Fees required. Contact a private company for a tour into the canyon by hiking, horseback, or vehicle. No pets allowed on tours.

The SaddleBrooke Ranch (SBR) National Parks Club is open to all residents of SBR. Activities include NPS Ranger talks, bus trips to park sites, socials, and community sharing by club members of their trips and experiences in our national parks. To become a member, click on “Request Membership” in GroupWorks or send an email to [email protected].