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Canyon de Chelly National Monument:  Beautiful but Beware 

(Reprint from News: June 20, 2001)

June 20, 2001

 

I crossed  the Utah state line in the afternoon and headed into Arizona, where I spent a night at Canyon de Chelly ("da Shay") National 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.

 

For as 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.

 

       

Above left:  The Visitor Center at Canyon de Chelly National Monument. 

Above center:  House Under the Rock overlook.

Above right:  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.

 

       

Above left:  View from the north rim.

Above center:  Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly.  Tourists aren't allowed to travel on the floor of the canyon except with guided Navajo tours.

Above 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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