NPS Geodiversity Atlas—Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

Geodiversity refers to the full variety of natural geologic (rocks, minerals, sediments, fossils, landforms, and physical processes) and soil resources and processes that occur in the park. A product of the Geologic Resources Inventory, the NPS Geodiversity Atlas delivers information in support of education, Geoconservation, and integrated management of living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of the ecosystem.

view of canyon from rim

National Park Foundation photo.


Canyon de Chelly National Monument is located on Navajo trust land on the outskirts of the town of Chinle in Apache County, northeastern Arizona. Established on February 14, 1931, Canyon de Chelly contains approximately 33,929 hectares (83,840 acres) and preserves one of the longest, continually inhabited American Indian communities in the United States with a history dating back at least 5,000 years (National Park Service 2016a). Canyon de Chelly contains an outstanding collection of archeological and cultural resources that document an occupational history spanning the Archaic through Basketmaker, Ancestral Puebloan, transitional period, historic Navajo and Pueblo, and early European contact (National Park Service 2016a). The canyon system contains alcoves and cliff dwellings that preserve exceptional architecture, as well as one of the largest concentrations of pictographs and petroglyphs in North America.

Geologic Setting

The geology of Canyon De Chelly National Monument is a testament to millions of years of uplift and stream cutting that have exposed the monument’s colorful sheer cliff walls. The bedrock of Canyon De Chelly predominantly consists of Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks that have been heavily eroded and incised to form Canyon de Chelly, Canyon del Muerto, and smaller tributary canyons. Units mapped within the national monument include the Pennsylvanian–Permian Supai Formation, Permian Cutler Group, and the Triassic Chinle Formation. The scenic red cliff exposures in Canyon De Chelly consist of the De Chelly Sandstone of the Cutler Group, which rise from the wash to heights of up to 366 m (1,200 ft). Views from the canyon rims look onto spectacular geological features, such as the towering spires of erosion-resistant sandstone and caprock (such as Spider Rock and Face Rock) that stand above the canyon floor (National Park Service 2016b).

Regional Geology

Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a part of the Colorado Plateaus Physiographic Province and shares its geologic history and some characteristic geologic formations with a region that extends well beyond park boundaries.

Maps and Reports

The Geologic Resources Inventory produces digital geologic maps and reports for more than 270 natural resource parks. The products listed below are currently available for this park, check back often for updates as many maps, reports, and posters are still in progress.
  • Scoping summaries are records of scoping meetings where NPS staff and local geologists determined the park’s geologic mapping plan and what content should be included in the report.
  • Digital geologic maps include files for viewing in GIS software, a guide to using the data, and a document with ancillary map information. Newer products also include data viewable in Google Earth and online map services.
  • Reports use the maps to discuss the park’s setting and significance, notable geologic features and processes, geologic resource management issues, and geologic history.
  • Posters are a static view of the GIS data in PDF format. Newer posters include aerial imagery or shaded relief and other park information. They are also included with the reports.
  • Projects list basic information about the program and all products available for a park.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2760. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

NPS Soil Resources Inventory project has been completed for Canyon de Chelly National Monument and can be found on the NPS Data Store.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 2742. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

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Canyon de Chelly National Monument

National Park Service Geodiversity Atlas

The servicewide Geodiversity Atlas provides information on geoheritage and geodiversity resources and values within the National Park System. This information supports science-based geoconservation and interpretation in the NPS, as well as STEM education in schools, museums, and field camps. The NPS Geologic Resources Division and many parks work with National and International geoconservation communities to ensure that NPS abiotic resources are managed using the highest standards and best practices available.

For more information on the NPS Geodiversity Atlas, contact us.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Last updated: March 18, 2024