At first, scattered families grew corn, squash, and beans above the canyon rim. In the late 1000s, following the eruption of nearby Sunset Crater Volcano, the population began to grow. In about 1150, many people started moving down into Walnut Canyon, where they built the cliff dwellings that line the canyon walls today. There was water at times in Walnut Creek, and the canyon held a rich assortment of plants and animals that could be harvested.
The Walnut Canyon community thrived here for about 150 years, growing crops in small plots above the rim, raising children, making stone tools and implements, and following the ancient ceremonial cycles that had been passed down for generations. Then they moved on. By the early 1300s, the canyon ledges were quiet.
The Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings are unique, the only known such remains of the northern Sinagua culture. Constructed in rock alcoves within the canyon, they protected their occupants from the elements. Almost 700 years later, their walls and the artifacts within are still remarkably well preserved. We can learn much from these dwellings and from the many masonry pueblos, rock shelters, campsites, agricultural fields, and objects still in place at Walnut Canyon National Monument.
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