Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Canyon de Chelly Arizona

(we hold copyrite to ALL photographs!) 
After spending 3 days exploring around Bluff Utah, Chuck and I headed to Chinle AZ and
Canyon de Chelly National Monument! (Pronounced Canyon de Shay)
We left Bluff almost a month ago! WoW!  Where did all that time go?  We followed Highway 191 from Bluff to Chinle and why this isn't marked as a scenic highway, I will never know!  Beautiful rock monuments and red stone cliffs, beautiful valleys and a wonderful road with NO TRAFFIC! I mean if we met 20 vehicles between Bluff and Chinle, I would be surprised!  Now for the spoiler....   be sure your gas tank is full before exploring this highway. You will be driving the backroads of the Navajo/Dineh reservation!  Going through settlements named Mexican Water, Rock Point, Round Rock and Many Farms before arriving at Chinle! It was a leisurely 3 or so hour drive from Bluff to Cottonwood Campground at Canyon de Chelly .
Cottonwood Campground is a well maintained campground full of the cottonwood trees for which it was named providing nice shady sites. NO HOOK-UPS
You will be dry camping here. The sites are all paved and level with some pull through's but mostly back in. It's only $10 per night.

The campground was almost empty! We got there on a Friday night... August 17th!  The little Casita belongs to the workamper. There are handicapped sites available right next to the restrooms.


There were Navajo artists at several of the overlooks with quality work, not the usual cedar beads you find.

This man had beautiful pottery, he was carving very intricate designs into this pot with an exacto knife! He had several pieces I really liked! We stopped by on our way back to buy one but he was gone!

 This lady has created a beautiful necklace using coral and silver!  I was really tempted because it was so nice! Not the traditional work you usually see but very interesting.

Archaeological evidence shows that people have lived in the canyons of Canyon de Chelly for nearly 5,000 years, longer than anyone has lived uninterrupted anywhere on the Colorado Plateau.
 I love this photograph that Chuck took...  looks like canyon spirits in the shadows headed down the stairs!  Several look like Kokopelli !  Chuck will be taking the rest of the photos...  I just can't do the cliff edge heights anymore! The 26 miles of canyon cliff walls, some rising up to 1,000 feet from the canyon floor! 
I couldn't believe this couple, casually perched on the edge of the canyon with nothing but air between them and the canyon floor far below!
The rains flow into the canyon floor providing farming for the families who live in these canyon walls.

Everything looked pretty dry when we were there in August!

 There are huge monuments on the canyon floor

 People we call Basketmakers built homes,storage facilities and social/ceremonial complexes high on ledges in the walls of the canyon cliffs. The alcoves in the cliff wall above and cropped in closer below were used for storage. Usually food would be stored here.

 In the close up and cropped photo, you can see the rock structures built within each alcove.  But look how high it is from the canyon floor and how treacherous it would be to descend to the grainery from above!
The camera lens we were using wasn't able to capture these cliff dwellings circled above! How did they ever get to them???
About 700 years ago the Anasazi (ancient ones) culture, who built these homes within the canyon walls, disappeared. Later, migrating Hopi Indians and other tribes spent summers hunting and farming here. You can enlarge the image somewhat by clicking on it.

 This is known as "Slide Ruins"

The more famous of the cliff dwellings is the White House Ruins. A fairly easy 1.5 mile hike down to the ruins gets you up close and personal with them.

The most recognisable feature of Canyon de Chelly is Spider Rock. Here, you can see the river far below that makes farming here possible.

A wide angle view of Spider Rock shows the awe inspiring beauty that is Canyon de Chelly!
There is a second campground near Spider Rock. This is a campground I would never recommend to anyone except bravehearted tent campers!  Certainly no RV's of any size, style or type could ever find a spot level enough or big enough to accomodate you. Extremely twisty interior dirt roads made navigating my Chevy TrailBlazer a challenge! Even trying to find our way out of this campground maze was a challenge!  Avoid this one for sure, the campground at the entrance known as Cottonwood is wonderful!
We loved our 2 days here, wish we could have stayed longer.  But we were rushing to get here Mimbres NM to our new workamping job.  This area of New Mexico is beautiful! Cool weather too! The cottonwood trees down by the river are turning golden we are looking forward to Autumn!
Happy Trails until we meet again!  Geri, Chuck and the HoundHerd Scotty, DoogieBowser and Radar!


 Loved the back window of an RV we saw in South Dakota!



  1. I haven't been to Canyon de Chelly since the late 60's. Guess I had better schedule another trip back. Great photos!

    1. Last time I had been there was in the mid 1980's. Since the Navajo took over running this park many improvements have been made! Better campground, used to be all dirt, better roads and parking areas! Nice to see all the improvements!

  2. Wow. You told us last year to visit this area. Now I know we should really make the effort on our next trip. Thank you for the pictures.

    1. Hi Bill and Ann! Yes, Canyon de Chelly is one of those out of the way places worth the effort! Hint... stock up your fridge! No good restaurants in the area worth mentioning!

  3. Gorgeous pictures!

  4. I wish we could follow you to Canyon de Chelly, but will be heading to Bluff, then up 95 to Capitol Reef, and Bryce. Any suggestions along that route?

    1. The road from Bluff to Torrey will mean your jaw dropping every few miles! Head north from Bluff towards Blanding and turn left at highway 95! You will pass thru Glen Canyon area!!!! Beautiful! When you get to Hanksville, turn left on Highway 24 and prepare for more jaw dropping scenery! Here is the link to oyr blog, from Torrey to Bluff so it's kinda in reverse for you!

  5. Wow, I just got home and your pictures make me want to strike out again. Thanks for your kind words about Cali! :-)

  6. Grin! Just ut Canyon de Chelly on your "to see" list for next year!

  7. Question: Can a 42' rig fit into Cottonwood?

  8. Yes, there sre several sites at Cottonwood where you should fit with no problem. If you noticed in the first photograph, we are a 32' 5th wheel, with long crew cab front PLUS my Chevy SUV! Our 3 vehicles combined are well over 50' and we had plenty of space as you can see and shade besides! We drove through the whole campground seeing what sites were available and found this pull through near the exit of the park. Enjoy, it is beautiful here!


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