The Navajo National Monument was created to preserve the ancient cliff dwellings of an ancient Navajo people. The three dwellings located in the monument are the most intact and well preserved cliff homes of the Puebloan people. The site was declared a National Monument in 1909 and has been one of Arizona's most popular outdoor attractions since that time. The actual monument is located high on a plateau called Shonto which overlooks a canyon system. The name of the dwellings are called Keet Seel and Betatakin. The name Keet Seel is a Navajo word for "broken pottery.'' Archeologists believe that at one time 150 people occupied the dwelling. Many of the rooms in the Keet Seel dwelling were actually used for food storage, indicating that the ancient people were expert farmers and successful hunters who were able to thrive in the desert environment. The ancient peoples who lived in the dwellings are believed to have produced crops of beans, corn, and hunted indigenous wild game. The Betatakin dwelling is also Navajo and means "ledge house." The dwelling has a cluster of 135 distinct rooms. In order to explore the Betatakin dwelling a strenuous five mile hike is required. Unfortunately, visitors are no longer permitted to explore the Keet Seel area. The dwellings were closed years ago to the public in order to protect the fragility of the ruins.
The Navajo people who currently live in the monument area refer to the ancient dwellings Anasazi. There is debate on the context in which the modern day Navajo view the ancient people who once lived in their land. Some anthropologists feel the Navajo view the people as ancient ancestors while others believe they are viewed as ancient enemies. Navajo National Monument gives travelers a unique opportunity to explore what life was like in the ancient past. Visitors to the site learn about various cultures and how those cultures were affected by the geographical and political climate in which they lived. Researchers have studied the Keet Seel and Betatakin dwellings for years in search of more clues that attest to the monument's history.
Visitors to the monument have an array of activities to choose from. The monument features two small campgrounds as well as two self-guided mesa trails. There are no charges to enter the monument nor or there fees associated with the guided hikes or waling trails. The Navajo National Monument Visitors Center is open all year to the public and has various educational exhibits. The exhibits display various material artifacts from the Navajo and Anasazi culture. Some of the artifacts that are on display include textiles, jewelry, and pottery. An auditorium located in the center plays laserdisc videos with information about the Ancient Pueblo people and the cliff dwellings. Newcomers to the Visitors Center will find the area interesting and informative.
Navajo National Monument covers 600 acres of land. The monument is small and only consists of a campground and Visitors Center that are constantly open to the public. The campground at the Navajo National Monument has 31 small sites and each is equipped with a parking space and picnic tables.