Canyon de Chelly

Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de-shay), located in northeastern Arizona, is a spectacular national monument covering more than 84,000 acres that is both a geological wonder and a historical treasure trove.

The area includes ruins from more than 1,500 years of Native American history, from the ancient Anaszai tribes to the current landholders, the Navajo nation.

The canyon, which reached national monument status in1931, actually includes three other canyons in what looks like a three-fingered pattern. That year marked the culmination of an effort to protect the various archeological treasures throughout the caves, canyon rims and overhangs of Canyon de Chelly.

The monument has a rich history involving several nationalities and has been continuously occupied for an estimated 1,500, according to the National Park Service. In 1976, the park service put together a complete administrative history of the Canyon, detailing the nations and tribes who have settled there over the years.

Though archeologists have explored much of the canyon, officials with the park service believe there are many caves and other sites that have not yet been visited by archaeologists, so the monument promises to provide even more details in the future.

Canyon de Chelly is exciting for two main reasons: First is the distinct look based on millions of years of geological creation, according to the website The steep walls of the canyon are made of sand, deposited more than 200 million years ago when the southwestern part of the U.S. was nothing more than a windswept desert.

In the past 200 million years, the sandstone slowly began to erode, and this led to the formation of caves and rock shelters located throughout the monument. The presence of Spaniards, Americans and Native Indians is proven by the handprints, pictographs and petroglyphs commonly seen throughout the canyon.

The second, great fascination of the area, in addition to the canyon's visual splendor, is the variety of archeological artifacts. These artifacts - and more are being discovered all time - add new information to the stories of the civilizations who have settled in the canyon.

Tours, which include walking trails and four-wheel drive vehicles, are available from Navajo Indian guides, one of the elements of the partnership between the Navajo nation, which owns the land, and the National Park Service, which staffs all national parks and monuments.

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