Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona

America’s National Parks, in my humble opinion, are not just America’s Best Idea, but some of God’s best work as well.

To me, these are the holiest of places on earth — cathedral-like fortresses protecting Mother Earth from the invasion of man and providing a haven for our hurried, human spirit.

Spiritual Site for Navajo Nation in Arizona

Canyon de Chelly is a national park in Arizona that is sacred to Native Americans.We were pleased to discover Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona. It is truly one of those places that speak to our spirits, calling for us to be calm and quiet in its presence.

The Navajo call it “the heart of the world.” This quiet, peaceful canyon – really two 20-mile-long canyons – was for centuries their place for prayer and contemplation. A place for songs and ceremonies. A place for gatherings.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

This image shows the rich red walls of Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona.

Technically, Canyon de Chelly is a national monument. It’s every bit as beautiful as a national park, but where the parks are created by an act of Congress and are based on inspirational, educational and recreational value, a national monument can be created by an act of the president and is usually because of historic or scientific interests. It is pronounced “canyon de shay.”

Here in the Canyon de Chelly, about four hours from the Grand Canyon, cottonwoods and Russian olive trees grow wild. Lavender-flowered tamarisk and bushy salt-cedar brighten the landscape. In spring, the prickly pear cactus, yucca, and other wildflowers contribute to the palette. 

A stream sneaks its way through the bottom of the canyon, often entirely invisible to most visitors, but providing necessary moisture to the Navajo who live and farm in the canyon.

We encountered a Navajo musician playing a flute in one of the canyons. He spoke to us of his personal relationship with the colors and shadows, the breezes as they move through the rocky landscape, and the wildlife that find their haven here.

His spirit spoke to us as clearly as the landscape. His music and the music of Canyon de Chelly stays in our hearts today.  

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Learn about the People and National Parks of Arizona