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Spider Rock

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, located in the northeast corner of the state, is one of Arizona's lesser known destinations, but one of its most dramatic and inspiring. Though much smaller than the Grand Canyon, visitors often say it can be just as spectacular with its extraordinary ruins and breathtaking features.

De Chelly (pronounced de SHAY-ee, or more commonly de SHAY) consists entirely of land owned by the Navajo Nation and still maintains a community of Native Americans who live and farm within the canyon's walls. While sightseers are allowed to explore the chasm's rim freely, visits to nearly all areas within the canyon itself are allowed only with a guide, as many sites are considered sacred to the Navajo people.

Notable among those sites is Spider Rock, a red-sandstone survivor of epic erosion. An 800-foot spire stabbing the air that flows between the canyon's walls, it stands as a sort of unofficial icon of Canyon de Chelly. It's also the address of the mythical Spider Woman, who has chosen its pinnacle as her home.

Spider Woman is considered an important deity in the Navajo culture. According to their creation story, when the Navajo people found their way here from the underworld, she gave power to those who destroyed the evil creatures that roamed this land. In addition, she's been responsible for protecting peaceful men who have found themselves in danger from others. In one story, a young Navajo was hunting in de Chelly when an enemy warrior began pursuing him. Chased deeper and deeper into the canyon, the hunter had run out of options until he saw a silk-like cord drop down the side of Spider Rock. He tied it around his waist, and with the help of Spider Woman, the young man escaped to the top, where he was allowed to stay until it was safe.

Yet, the legend of Spider Woman does have a darker side. Aided by a spirit snitch who resides on the lower, adjacent peak known as Speaking Rock, Spider Woman seeks out those who have been mischievous and disobedient. Whenever she hears of a child who has been badly behaved, she crawls down from her perch, snatches him up and carries him back to the top to meet his fate. The chalky color that caps Spider Rock is said to be the bones of the Navajo children she has devoured.

Weird Arizona


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