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Northern Arizona's Walnut Canyon National Monument 
 
by Betsie Nielson August 08, 2005

Once we arrived at the top, we took the other trail, the Rim Trail, which is just that. It is a trail that runs along the rim of the canyon. It is a very easy .7 mile stroll on a paved trail. At the end is a great overlook area where we could take in the great panoramic view of Walnut Canyon and beyond. Also along the Rim Trail are some of the rim top buildings left behind by the ancient people. They are called pit houses and were used by the farmers while tending their crops. Once our hikes were complete, we spent some time in the museum area and bookstore of the visitor’s center. While it is fairly small, the museum offers several displays of artifacts from the early dwellers of the area, as well as information about their culture and lifestyle. The big mystery that the archaeologists have yet to solve definitively is why the Sinagua people left Walnut Canyon after living there for over 100 years and where they went when they left. The current prevailing theory is that they assimilated into the modern tribe known as the Hopi. The Hopi explain that these ancestors, whom they call Hisatsinom (people of long ago), migrated towards one another as part of a religious quest to unite all of the clans. In the bookstore, there is a wide selection of readings on the local Native American tribes and culture, as well as northern Arizona archaeology.

I have returned to Walnut Canyon several times in the years since my first visit. Most memorable, was when I had the opportunity to take groups of high school students who were participating in a summer enrichment program at Flagstaff’s Northern Arizona University. My students were from all over Arizona, some Native American and some from the desert city of Phoenix. They were intrigued with the cliff dwellings and how they were located so far from “everywhere else.”

Fees

A trip to Walnut Canyon is very inexpensive. Children sixteen and under are free and adults are $5.00 for a seven day pass. Seven days sounds great, but I’m not sure what one would do for seven days at this park. There are picnic facilities, but no camping within the park. The average family could see and do everything satisfactorily in about three hours.

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