The seven overlooks along the South Rim drive included magnificent vistas of the red rock canyon walls with their sandstone cliffs and hidden dwellings perched high off the canyon floor. Also noticeable was the verdant valley with its large red rock formations sprouting up from the canyon floor. We divided these overlooks into two sections and stopped at each one to snap pictures. The first three we visited were: Tunnel, Tseyi and Junction Overlooks.
At each one of these, Navajo were selling exquisite handmade jewelry crafted from silver, bronze and colorful stones. Jade, turquoise, shimmering brown sandstone, and purple amethyst necklaces and bracelets were among some of the treasures we discovered.
Tunnel Overlook provided our first glance into Canyon De Chelly where the canyon’s crimson rocks were darkened by the long morning shadows that still blanketed them. After a brief stroll down the hill to the fenced metal overlook, we saw the narrow west end passage open up to a wider valley and were greeted by dormant cottonwood trees with their lacy gray branches glistening in the sunlight.
This wider valley was more visible at our next stop, Tseyi Overlook. Here, naked cottonwoods lined the banks of the muddy Chinle Wash. As the narrow wash meandered its way through the canyon, we could see along its shore a few small rural houses and farms, interspersed between the smooth canyon walls. The Navajo divert water from this source to irrigate their crops of corn, beans and squash.
The shiny red and black walls of the canyon at Junction Overlook, contrasted beautifully with the endless pink and purple pastels of the desert beyond the canyon rim. Eagerly, we scanned the dusty cliffs with our binoculars and our enthusiasm paid off when we discovered Anazasi ruins tucked into the long cracks of the canyon walls.
Named First Ruin and Junction Ruin, these building remains revealed crumbling sandstone tops and square brick foundations. Also observable were cutouts for doors.
To be continued next Monday…