Photographing Native American Ruins in Arizonia

Mary at Wuptaki National Monument

Mary at Wupatki National Monument

Mary and I had a chance to visit three Native American ancient dwellings on our last trip to Arizona.  We visited Tonto National Monument near Apache Junction; Walnut Canyon in Flagstaff; and, Wupatki between Flagstaff and Page.  We are always inspired by the ingenuity of these ancient people and the beauty they left behind.  Here is what you might see.

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Tonto

Tonto is about two hours from Phoenix.  There are two houses; one that you can just walk up to and one that you need a scheduled guided tour.  These are cliff dwellings and it is always amazing to think about how these were built and how people lived in them.  After a half mile hike, almost straight up, you will find a 3,000 square foot house with several rooms.

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Walnut Canyon National Monument is 20 minutes from downtown Flagstaff and is a must see if you are there.  There are many ruins tucked into the canyon and under-hangs.  You can walk into several of them and see many more on the hillsides.

There's one.

There’s one.

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You need a 200 mm telephoto lens to get this composition

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Mary inside one of the dwellings at Walnut Canyon

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The main trail is about ten stories below the rim of the canyon.

This was our second visit to Wupatki National Monument which is not a cliff dwelling, but a very large building with several out buildings.  It is 45 minutes north of Flagstaff and a great stop off if you are driving to Page.  It’s 20 minutes off the highway, but well worth the side-trip.  No hiking here.  Its an easy walk around the ruins.

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Here are a few hints..

Get there early – I always recommend you get to your desired locations early, preferably right when they open to get the best light and avoid the crowds.  We were all alone at Tonto for a good 20 minutes which was delightful.  By the time we walked down the hill, there were well over a hundred people on the trail and in the ruins.

Wide angle and telephoto – you could photograph all of these sites easily with a wide angle lens and a point and shoot.  However, at Walnut Canyon, you really need a 200 mm lens to get close to the ruins up in the cliffs.

Think black and white – Mary and I have infrared cameras that we use mid-day and covert the raw files to monotone or black and white while processing.  Even if you are using a color camera, think about converting the images later to black and white.

Be patient and be ready to walk – if you can not avoid the crowds by arriving early, then bring your patience with you.  Though these national monuments are very well maintained and have walkways and stairs, there is a lot of walking and resting, so plan your time accordingly.

Here is our very popular blog post about Mesa Verde – probably the most famous Native American Indian in America.

To see more of (and buy) our photos, please got to www.pamphotography.com.

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