Canyon de Chelly National Monument: Beautiful but
I crossed the Utah state line in the afternoon
headed into Arizona, where I spent a night at Canyon de Chelly ("da
Monument, in the northeastern part of the state.
Canyon de Chelly is an interesting park because it's interwoven with the Navajo
Indian Reservation which completely surrounds the park. Best of all, it also has one of
the few free National Park campgrounds in the country... and I'm a pretty cheap
guy, so I was happy.
long as I can remember, though, this place has been notorious for vehicle break-ins.
During my first visit here in 1981, a park ranger quietly told me that they were
having problems in certain parts of the park with thieves from the nearby Navajo
reservation breaking into vehicles.
I've never had my truck broken into, but during my last visit here
back in 1993, I overheard a Navajo guy in a parking lot at trying to convince an older couple in an RV
to walk out to the viewpoint a half-mile away. "It's beautiful, you
really should go out there," he told them. Of course, the reason he wanted
them to leave was so that he could break into their RV.
I don't want to imply that the place is filled with
car thieves because most of the nearby Navajos are law-abiding folks (and many
of them sell great handmade jewelry at the park's pull-outs). But if you
visit Canyon de Chelly, just be careful.
The Visitor Center at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
center: House Under the Rock overlook.
These are cliff
dwellings built by the Anasazi Indians around 1200 A.D. A
hundred years later the Anasazi mysteriously disappeared from the Four Corners
area, leaving their
dwellings and relics behind. No one knows why the Anasazi suddenly
disappeared, but most scientists think it was due to drought.
left: View from the north rim.
Rock in Canyon de Chelly. Tourists aren't allowed to travel on
the floor of the canyon except with guided Navajo tours.
right: The Hubbell Trading Post is one of the oldest active trading posts
in the U.S. Navajos bring in blankets and art work and trade them for
groceries, toys, and other goods. The Navajo handicrafts are, in turn,
sold to tourists like me, and everybody's happy.
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Chelly: Beautiful But Beware