on December 28, 2006
Perhaps the most fascinating of all of the National Park Service locations that depict the lives of the people native to Arizona, Walnut Canyon National Monument should not be missed! Located within 15 minutes of downtown Flagstaff, it is worth a morning or afternoon of exploration.The Walnut Canyon rise high above the Walnut Creek, and is very steep. The sheer rock walls appear to be hardly inhabitable even today. The Sinagua are the people who were known to live in this area, arriving sometime around 600 AD. It is believed that after the 1064/5 eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano, the Sinagua began building cliff dwellings in the canyon walls here at Walnut Creek. “Sinagua” means “without water” which is largely how these people had to live. While they had a small creek below their cliff homes, this area was essentially without water to grow crops creating hardships for those who lived here. Water conservation was essential to assure their ability to grow corn and other crops.It is believed that the Sinagua lived here for approximately 100 years, moving around 1250 to new villages, later assimilated into the Hopi culture. Today, visitors can take the walking tour of these beautiful cliff dwellings. Some are in fairly decent shape considering the years of scavengers who sought artifacts and souvenirs around the turn of the 20th century. The area has been protected by the National Park Service since 1915 when it was declared a National Monument. If you make the trip to Walnut Canyon, you must be prepared for a rather steep walk. The entire trail around the 25 cliff dwelling rooms is just about a mile. Your return to the canyon rim will require walking up 240 stairs. The path is fully paved and has benches along the way for those who need to stop for a break or to simply breathe. As an asthmatic, I have to be careful with extreme climbing and was a bit skeptical about my ability to do this hike. After it was done, I was very glad that I did it! I would have hated to have missed this wonderful opportunity to see first hand, up close, how these cliff dwellers lived hundreds of years ago.As you walk around the loop around these “rooms” be sure to pay particular attention to the opposite wall on the other side of the canyon. Across the way you will also see pueblos and more cave like dwellings where more Sinagua lived. They seem even more inaccessible over there, probably because of the thick forest and plant life.There is a $5 per person fee to enter this US National Park Service site.
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