Navajo National Monument

The boundary-line which divides Utah from Arizona divides the most gorgeous expression of the great American desert region. From the Mesa Verde National Park on the east to Zion National Monument on the west, from the Natural Bridges on the north to the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert on the south, the country glows with golden sands and crimson mesas, a wilderness of amazing and impossible contours and indescribable charm.

Within this region, in the extreme north of Arizona, lie the ruins of three neighboring pueblos. Richard Wetherill, who was one of the discoverers of the famous cliff-cities of the Mesa Verde, was one of the party which found the Keet Seel (Broken Pottery) ruin in 1894 within a long crescent-shaped cave in the side of a glowing red sandstone cliff; in 1908, upon information given by a Navajo Indian, John Wetherill.

Keet Seel, with over 160 rooms including six kivas, is the largest cliff dwelling in Arizona.

Professor Byron Cumming, and Neil Judd located Betatakin (Hillside House) ruin within a crescent-shaped cavity in the side of a small red canyon.

Betatakin Ruin has 135 rooms including living quarters, granaries and one kiva.

Twenty miles west of Betatakin is a small ruin known as Inscription House upon whose walls is a carved inscription supposed to have been made by Spanish explorers who visited them in 1661.

INSCRIPTION HOUSE - photograph by William B. Douglas - 1903

INSCRIPTION HOUSE – photograph by William B. Douglas – 1903

Inscription House, the smallest of the three, has 44 rooms, several granaries and one kiva. (Inscription House is closed to the public.)

The pueblos were vacated in the 1300s, probably due to erosion which depleted the soil in the canyon floor and lowered the water table

While these ruins show no features materially differing from those of hundreds of other more accessible pueblo ruins, they possess quite extraordinary beauty because of their romantic location in cliffs of striking color in a region of mysterious charm.

But the Indian civilization of our southwest began very many centuries before the arrival of the Spaniard, who found, besides the innumerable pueblos which were crowded with busy occupants, hundreds of pueblos which had been deserted by their builders, some of them for centuries, and which lay even then in ruins.

The desertion of so many pueblos with abundant pottery and other evidences of active living is one of the mysteries of this prehistoric civilization.

No doubt, with the failure of water-supplies and other changing physical conditions, occasionally communities sought better living in other localities, but it is certain that many of these desertions resulted from the raids of the wandering predatory tribes of the plains, the Querechos of Bandelier’s records, but usually mentioned by him and others by the modern name of Apaches.

These fierce bands continually sought to possess themselves of the stores of food and clothing to be found in the prosperous pueblos. The utmost cruelties of the Spanish invaders who, after all, were ruthless only in pursuit of gold, and, when this was lacking, tolerant and even kindly in their treatment of the natives, were nothing compared to the atrocities of these Apache Indians, who gloried in conquest.

Of the ruins of pueblos which were not identified with Spanish occupation, six have been conserved as national monuments.

Navajo National Monument, is run by the National Park Service,

Summer hours: From  May 27, 2012 to September 08, 2012.
The visitor center is open 8 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.

Winter hours: From  September 09, 2012 and ends May 25, 2013.
The visitor center is open 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. every day.  

Fees & Reservations
Free guided hikes to cliff dwellings.
Free self-guided trails on mesa top (3 of them).
Free campgrounds (48 sites total).
Free movies (3 of them!)

Source: National Park Service

Inscription House Ruin Nitsie Canyon Arizona

Located in the Navajo Reservation, the three sites—Betatakin (Navajo: “Ledge House”), Keet Seel (“Broken Pottery”; see photograph), and Inscription House—are among the best-preserved and most elaborate cliff dwellings known. The three sites, made a national monument in 1909.

Inscription House Ruin Navaho National Monument

Inscription House was partly built using a form of adobe brick. Unlike modern adobe bricks, these have ample amounts of grasses.

Inscription House. The latter ruin derives its name from an inscription scratched into the clay plaster of a wall. It reads, “Shapeiro Ano Dom 1661.” An intrepid early Spanish explorer or missionary, probably on his way to or from the Colorado River, must have entered the canyon in which this ruin is located and paused at the long-abandoned pueblo to scratch a record of his visit. So far as recorded it was not visited again until June, 1909.

Inscription House Ruin Navaho National Monument

Nitsie Canyon, in which Inscription House is located, is formed by a series of deep-cut canyons, whose courses zigzag in every direction like the tentacles of some huge devilfish, their rounded points and sides shimmering in the sunlight as though pulsating with life. At the rim one pauses in astonishment at this riot of color and form spread out below.

At Inscription House, the problems of Keet Seel were compounded by the nearby trading post and environmental problems. Since the 1930s, erosion had been visible in the wash below Inscription House. In the early 1940s, the wash eroded at the rate of about twenty feet per annum.

By 1944, it was “positively dangerous” to reach Inscription House.

In 1949, the ferocity of the flow of water caused a number of burials from the cave at Inscription House to wash out toward Lake Meade. Brewer found bones and high quality pottery in the wash after a heavy spring rain, prompting him to call for better protective measures against creeping erosion.

In addition, vandalism became more common at Inscription House in the early 1950s. Unauthorized visitors sometimes dug in the ruins. Local schoolchildren repeatedly scratched initials in the soft adobe walls. Clearly the Park Service had to take action.

But without an allocation of resources, any changes enacted remained largely cosmetic. Aubuchon optimistically concluded that the arduous trek to the outliers “precludes the person who has a mania for destruction,” but vandalism was an endemic problem.

The best mechanisms the regional office could offer were passive. Regional Director Tillotson advocated “a tightening of control over these isolated sections of the monument,” but no allocation to support those sentiments followed. Tillotson reiterated his longstanding opposition to directional signs for the trails to Keet Seel and Inscription House. He approved the idea that visitors should be required to register with the Park Service before they were allowed to proceed to either of the backcountry areas.
in the face of the declining condition of the two ruins, such remedies fell short of solving critical problems.

Inscription House, 36° 40′ 14″ north. 110° 51′ 32″ west.

Source: National Park Service