The Magic of Northern Arizona

Part 1 of Northern Arizona

San Francisco Mountains

Northern Arizona is wild and beautiful, a truly unique area. It isn’t the Arizona most people think of; Yes, there is desert, but there are also mountains – snow capped mountains in winter – pine forests and comfortable summers. It’s the home of the Grand Canyon, and that is something everyone must see at least once in their lives. But there is so much more.

South and east of the Grand Canyon stand the mountains we call the San Francisco Peaks. These ancient volcanoes are holy places. The Navajo origination story has it that Abalone Shell Mountain, or Mount Humphrey, was made on an abalone shell blanket brought from the Third World. The mountain was dressed and decorated with abalone shell to create understanding of social unity and life. It was anchored with sunbeams and covered with a blanket of yellow cloud.

That mountain is one of several volcanos in the area. Another one – Sunset Crater, just a little further east – had a lot to do with development of the area by the people we call Anasazi. The volcano erupted in the year 1064.

Nature is reclaiming the area of the lava flow north of the crater

That eruption spread ash and cinder over the northern Arizona grasslands and forests around the Little Colorado river. It was a time of good rains in that country, and the ash made the soil rich and better able to hold water. The good growing conditions attracted people from both Chaco Canyon to the east and Hohokam settlements to the south. They joined the Sinaqua people already living there to develop a fine farming region. They created villages and established trade with Chaco and other settlements.

Now a desert, it was a much different place then. the people of Wupatki grew corn, beans, squash, and gourds in fields and gardens. They also collected wild seeds, grains and spring greens. They hunted pronghorn and deer, that foraged in the lush fields.

We call this place Wupatki, which means “Tall House” in the Hopi language.

Storehouse at Wupatki

In its heyday, Wupatki was an advanced farming and trading center. It was a melting pot of Native American societies, taking elements from each of the groups that had moved into the area. The main pueblo was built of native stone with over 1,000 rooms and open Kivas. The large ball court was very similar to the ball courts found in central America.


It fires the imagination: To stand where these people stood, look into their homes, walk the trails they walked, to listen to their chatter and laughter echo through time to bounce off the walls of their homes and kivas, reminds us we are not the first people to make use of this land, and we may not be the last.

These are the silent remnants of advanced civilizations.

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