Monday, June 07, 2010

Canyon de Chelly

Our interest in Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de shay) was peaked a few years ago after having read a book called "Blood and Thunder". It's a story about the southwest, the Indians who inhabited the area and the men - - namely Kit Carson, (his commanders and armies) whose job it was to clear the Indians out of the area. Much of the book was about some of the events that took place in Canyon de Chelly. It was a fascinating story and since that time we determined we wanted to visit the Canyon. In order to go into the Canyon, you have to hire a Navajo guide, so that's what we did. We hired a man named Tim Haulwood to be our guide for 3 hours to learn about the Canyon and it's people.

Randy is standing in awe of the massive canyon walls. Archaeologica excavations of Canyon de Chelly and its tributary canyons have revealed that the canyon has been occupied almost continuously for nearly TWENTY CENTURIES. Ancestors of the first inhabitants, and perhaps ALL of the Indians of the United States came from Asia crossing a land bridge during the Ice Age and migrated southward. This migration happened several times, but the first group was the Anasazi Indians. They occupied the plateau area of the Southwest--an area that includes the drainages of the San Juan, Little Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers, much of Utah, Nevada, and Colorado from the first century to A.D. 1300.

The ride into the Canyon was wet and wild. We were riding in an open Jeep and we crossed through the river many times as we drove further into the Canyon. The cliffs are massive, soaring 700 feet above the river. It's an impressive place.

Here are some of the Anasazi dwellings we came upon. The stonework is unbelievable. We reached these dwellings after driving several miles up into the Canyon. The people of long ago live much as the Navajo people live today. . . growing crops of squash, corn, beans and watermelon. Some hay is also grown and taken out of the Canyon to be sold.

This is such an impressive and beautiful place. The dark color on the rock is caused by the mineral in the soil that has washed over the canyon walls for centuries.

It's not just a Canyon of rock and water but also a very lush farmland. Our guide Tim is 5th generation Navajo to work and live in the Canyon, and he's been quiding for over 20 years.

The Navajo came into the Canyon after the Anasazi were gone, but they never lived in any of the dwellings left behind because they consider those dwellings sacred places. Their duty now is to protect the area and perserve it for others to enjoy.

This is our guide Tim. You can see how dirty the Jeep got going through all the water. We had been spashed with red sandy water and got a little dirty and hot, but we were so glad we'd had the opportunity to see this magnificent place. Pictures don't do it justice.

After we left the Canyon, we drove the South Rim of the Canyon so we could get a different perspective from what we'd experienced with our guide. You can see the vast green areas that are now being used to grow crops for those who still live there.

Canyon de Chelly is nearly 70 miles long. Our 3 hour tour took us only 8-10 miles, traveling into two different areas. It's not hard to imagine why the Navajo had the advantage when they were persued by Kit Carson and his men. One of the sad parts of the story is that because there was so many places for them to hide and never be found, the Army destroyed all the crops growing in the Canyon, including 5,000 peach trees. Only after everything was destroyed and the Navajo's were starving did they surrender to Kit Carson and his men. That's only one of the many sad accounts of how we dealt with the Indians in the 1800's.

Spider Rock stands where two Canyons meet - -Canyon de Chelly and Monument Canyon. The smaller rocks at the base were used as lookouts by the Navajo.

We spent a memorable day here in the Canyon. It was so interesting to stand in places we'd read about and learn more about the people who lived there long ago, as well as the ones who inhabit it today. It's an experience unlike anything we'd ever done, and it will always be a special memory of awesome places and adventures we've had together.

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