After leaving Bluff, Utah, Tom and I headed for New Mexico. But we still had a couple of National Park Sites to hit in Arizona on our way out of the area. We stopped at Canyon de Chelly National Monument on a travel day while we were pulling the RV.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument is another Ancient Puebloan site. The canyon preserves remains of houses and shows evidence of human habitation for over 5,000 years. Because Canyon de Chelly is located on Navajo reservation land, the National Monument is a partnership between the National Park Service and the Navajo. The visitor center and overlooks sit on the canyon rim, but to see the canyon from the bottom, you have to take a Navajo guided tour.
Tom and I went expecting to check out the Visitors Center and drive to the overlooks on the rim. But when we got there, the Visitors Center was closed! This is so unusual (10 a.m. on a Saturday) that we didn’t know what to do. Fortunately the road to the Visitors Center was wide enough that Tom kind of parked in the middle while we talked about options. While we were parked, talking about it, several Navajo asked if they could help us. None of them knew why the Visitors Center was closed on a day it obviously should have been open.
Finally Tom drove on, looking for a place to turn around. Because there is a campground close to the entrance, we decided to head there to turn around. We ended up in a place where you sign up for Navajo tours of the canyon. Again, several people asked us if they could help us (we must have looked really out of place). Finally one woman told us there had been a shooting at one of the overlooks during the night and the park was closed to deal with safety issues. I never saw any news confirmation of this, but I don’t have any reason to doubt her word. She assured us that most of the overlooks were still open.
But at that point, Tom and I didn’t really want to stay. We couldn’t get the park brochure or the stamp. We had already seen plenty of Ancient Puebloan ruins with more to come. So Tom did a u-turn at a generous intersection and we headed on to our next destination. We are still counting it as a visit. We were on the National Monument grounds. Later I e-mailed Canyon de Chelly and asked for a stamp. It was waiting in the mail when we got to John and Jackie’s.