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Walnut Canyon National Monument


Walnut Canyon National Monument
White sands footprints at Walnut Canyon
National Monument.

Nine hundred years ago, the eruptions at what is now called Sunset Crater created rich farmland in northern Arizona. A rush of people converged on the volcano area, so a group of Sinagua moved south of the volcano to a canyon where there was room to build and raise crops. Between A.D. 1100 and 1250, the Sinagua built more than 300 small rooms of stone and mud into the limestone cliffs of Walnut Canyon.

A rugged trail in Walnut Canyon National Monument leads to the ruins of 24 cliff dwellings, offering intimate views of the rooms. Visitors who look closely can see an 800-year-old fingerprint left in plaster by one of the builders. From the trail it is possible to see 100 other dwellings across the canyon, and a short walk around the rim provides views of even more.

The canyon provided the Sinagua with a good livelihood for almost 150 years. The canyon floor had a dependable source of water, and both rims provided fertile land to grow corn, beans, and squash. The Sinagua also benefited from the diverse plant and animal life found in the canyon. The former included black walnuts, Douglas fir trees, cacti, and grapes; the latter comprised deer, foxes, and bears.

The Sinagua left Walnut Canyon for reasons that are not clear. Some anthropologists believe their descendants live today among the region's Pueblo Indians.

Walnut Canyon National Monument Information

Address: 6400 N. Hwy 89, Flagstaff, AZ
Telephone: 928/526-1157
Hours of Operation:

  • Nov. - Apr. 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
  • May - Oct. 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Admission: $5

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To learn more about national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based author who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.