Grand Canyon State ~ Walnut Canyon Park Pictures ~ Ancient Indians Presence
Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings
Vacationing in Arizona
Walnut Canyon is a national landmark that my husband and I visited one year in the month of February and we came away with an appreciation not only for the stunning scenery but also with our heads filled with information about which we were previously unaware.
This is one of many ancient Indian sites in the State of Arizona not far from the Grand Canyon, the latter of which lures numerous people from all around the world to come and visit. Most people come to the Grand Canyon and stare down at the magnificent canyon from the top and marvel at the Colorado River far below which continues to scour its path changing the face of the Grand Canyon a grain of sand at a time.
While the Grand Canyon can be appreciated more intimately by walking or riding a mule down to the bottom or even whitewater rafting through its canyons, the majority of people (like this author) have only gazed at the magnificent scenery from the perspective of looking down at it. The Grand Canyon appears different with the light of the day and each passing cloud. The viewpoints are easily accessible even for those who may be wheelchair bound.
Walnut Canyon offers two ways to see this historic place.
Welcome Sign near Walnut Canyon National Monument
It definitely takes some hiking down into the canyon to get to fully appreciate this ancient site up close and take photos, but unfortunately for people with disabilities that is not an option. Sometimes the landscape makes for easier access and sometimes it simply does not.
For those who cannot make the steep climb down into the canyon, there is an easy paved path near the rim where one can get an overview.
Walnut Canyon visitor center
Visitor Center and Rim Trail at Walnut Canyon
There is a Visitor Center at the top of Walnut Canyon worth taking some time to see. It is a museum packed with information and has exhibits on display which tell the story about the ancient Sinagua Indians who called this area home over seven-hundred years ago. The views from this lofty spot ( some 6,690 feet or 2,040 meters above sea level ) are stunning.
The Rim Trail allows one to gaze down upon the cliff-lined walls of the canyon lined with many trees and also cactus (depending upon whether it is north or south facing) and verdant greenery at the bottom...some 350 feet below. It is self-guided, paved and user friendly, little over a half-mile path where one can also see a restored pit house (a dug out depression in the ground where the Indians probably stored food supplies, or possibly even lived). This rim trail offers two overlook points.
You probably already guessed it.
Yes...there are numerous walnut trees at the bottom of this canyon along with a water source known as Walnut Creek which obviously attracted the Indians as well as wildlife to this protected area.
Overview of Walnut Canyon
Island Trail at Walnut Canyon
This particular trail is the one that takes one down a series of many steps and while the trail is paved, it is very strenuous because of the 185 foot vertical drop especially for people who are not used to that almost 7,000 foot elevation where the air is thinner.
Living for most of our lives in Houston, Texas which is only 43 feet above sea level, my husband and I definitely did some huffing and puffing and took several times to rest along this trail going down but particularly coming back up.
It became an excuse for more picture taking!
We were not the only ones that felt the elevation change and even though it is only around 240 steps plus the paved areas without steps and a one-mile round trip, signs along the way warn about this trail being "strenuous."
An hour before closing time no visitors to the Walnut Canyon National Monument are even allowed to start down this Island Trail as that is approximately the time that most people take to walk this trail. Of course some may take even longer...thus the rules are enforced.
Walnut CanyonClick thumbnail to view full-size
Walnut Canyon (fast look at the walk down into the canyon)
Walnut Canyon National Monument in Arizona
The Sinagua ( pronounced like "seen aug wah" ) lived in this area which now encompasses about 3,600 acres of land and they grew crops such as corn, beans and squash on the upland areas while finding shelter in the limestone cliffs below the rim.
Since the caves already provided a floor, roof and back walls, the enterprising Sinagua only had to construct side walls and ones in front to enclose the spaces making them more private and also safer from the elements. This they did by hauling rocks and mortaring them in place. Many of these cliff dwellings remain just as they were constructed many years ago.
The Island Trail takes one down to see twenty-five of such cliff dwellings where one can still see the blackened roofs where fires were tended by the ancient Indians those many centuries ago.
By far the vast majority of these cliff and pueblo dwellings...some 300 of them...are off limits to visitors so that this site, which became listed on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1966, can be preserved long into the future.
Walnut Canyon Cliff Dwellings - Up Close Views
Grand Canyon State
While spending time in this Grand Canyon State, it is most interesting to travel just short distances away from the Grand Canyon to see many other historic sites such as this Walnut Canyon National Monument.
The Sinagua Indians lived in places like the Grand Canyon, near Sunset Crater Volcano, at Wupatki National Monument, at Montezuma's Castle and at other places in this general area so it is not hard to visit many of these distinctive locations combining them all into one's vacation plans.
Reasons are still unknown with certainty as to why the Sinagua seemed to disappear after the 13th century. Other Indian tribes and or severe drought conditions may have played a hand in their departure. Perhaps someday more will become known, but so often as time progresses the path to discovery becomes a bit more faded and blurred.
At least we have beautifully preserved artifacts and lodgings such as the ones at Walnut Canyon as proof of the Sinagua's having lived in this part of Arizona. Hopefully you enjoyed this look at the Walnut Canyon National Monument and learned a bit more about this ancient Indian presence as my husband and I did while vacationing there many years ago.