Description of Chinle, Arizona Area
- Chinle (pronounced Chin-lee) is near the geographic center of the Navajo Nation, the largest tract of land reserved for American Indians in the United States. The land is held in trust by the Federal Government for the Navajo People. Larger in area than many eastern states, Navajoland has about the same area as the state of West Virginia. Near Chinle is the mouth of Canyon De Chelly National Monument, a group of three canyons that fan eastward for up to thirty miles. They contain many ruins and sacred places. Many nearby sights that include the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Meteor Crater, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest are one day excursions, as well as Mesa Verde, Navajo National Monument (Betatakin), Monument Valley, Hovenweap and the Goosenecks of the San Juan River in southern Utah.
- Chinle is located in the middle of the one hundred mile long Beautiful Valley, at over 5000 feet elevation. Most maps are not current, but the center of town is the intersection of N-S bearing US 191 and Indian Route 7 that bears East. We are approximately 35 miles west of New Mexico and sixty five miles south of the Utah-Arizona state line. We are an hour and one-half away from the Four Corners.
Chinle is a center of Tribal, county, Bureau of Indian Affairs (B.I.A.) and other federal offices. The Chinle Unified School District is a public K-12 unified district that serves over 4,500 students at its seven schools. Chinle High School has an enrollment of over 1100 students. It offers full academic and vocational programs.
- The weather in Chinle is mild both in winter and in summer. Mountains rising to nearly eight thousand feet on the east and west sides strip much of the moisture and reduce the fury of the eastward moving storms. In the high desert, the land is arid and offers only small pine and juniper trees on the hills, with short grasses and low bushes covering the open valleys.Yucca, and rarely small cactus grow in the sandy soils above the valley floor. Large stands of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir trees can be found in the nearby mountains. Snakes are uncommon. The United States Park Service operates a no fee, public campground at the Canyon's mouth. It is located in a grove of towering cottonwood trees, with clearly defined spaces and tables. It has a washroom and toilets, but no hook-ups are available. Spaces are available for both family and group camping.
Guides may be hired for those wishing to take their own vehicles into the canyon, overnight camping is permitted. This national monument is unique in that it still remains in the hands of the Navajo people and is still actively farmed during summer months. The three washes that carved the canyon when in flood, originate in the high mountains to the east. Flooding has been reduced by dams built for agriculture, but sudden storms can still fill the canyon's bottom with over four feet of raging waters. As the washes, wet or dry serve as the main roadways into the canyon, caution is necessary. Those in the bottom of the canyon may never see the rain falling miles distant, that suddenly can appear as a rushing wall of water. Extensive plantings of Russian Olive and Tamarisk trees in the last century now shield the bottom lands from most floods, this has concentrated any water into the existing channels.
- Three hotels are available in Chinle, and one of the two bed and breakfast's in the Four Corners is reached by a short drive into the mountains, as is the Rainbow Inn, a converted dormitory at the Dine' College Campus in Tsaile. Coyote Pass Hospitality is a family run business catering to those who want to do more and learn more about the Navajo people than they can from a tour bus window. Cultural exchanges, with Navajo foods and stories form the core of what a visitor may expect. Accommodations range from the traditional Hogan made of logs with out-door plumbing, to more advanced accommodations. Phone 928-724-3383 (Ask for Will B. Tsosie (pronounced sew-see))
- This entire website was originally created for the benefit of potential foreign exchange students. In the past, some would arrive with no hint of exactly where they would be coming. They were not prepared to face a rural location without many amenities that suburban youth sometimes are convinced are necessities.
We do have clear skies, clean air and one beautiful back yard. The rate of living is slower and not much is rushed. For non-Navajos, living here can be a unique experience. While it is in the United States, there are some cultural differences from other cities and their suburbs. In addition to the Navajo people, or Dineh, the remainder of the community's families live here because they have family members who work for the public school system, the Indian Health Service hospital, the B.I.A. or a handful of private businesses.
- Most families go to town about once each month and may travel during holidays. This varies with each family.