Located on the Colorado Plateau in the far northeastern part of Arizona, near the small town of Chinle, Canyon de Chelly was called "Tsegi" ("say-ee"), which means "rock canyon" or "among the rocks," according to the local Navajo people. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 17th Century, they corrupted the Navajo name to "de Chelly" ("de-shay-yee").
Where the streams meet
The canyons were all carved by the seasonal flow of water rushing down three high desert streams: the Rio de Chelly, Whiskey and Tsaile Creeks. These streams, which often run dry within the canyon walls, originate high in the Chuska Mountains to the northeast and come together in Canyon de Chelly to form the Chinle Wash.
Layers of rocks
Among the ruins
The Anasazi ruins shown here are known as "White House Ruins." The name Anasazi comes from the Navajo language and, when translated, means “enemy ancestors." The Navajo people, who call themselves the “Dine," are thought to have arrived in this high desert land less than a century before to the arrival of the Spanish. Today, Canyon de Chelly is a national monument and part of the Navajo Nation.
Opuntia cacti and a variety of yucca and other high desert plants are commonly found in the region, in addition to the hardy grama grass. Stands of Utah juniper, Juniperus osteosperma, dot the landscape, providing an abundance of pinon nuts for both human and animal consumption.