Scenic USA - Arizona
Keet Seel (Kawestima)
|Photos by Dr. Rob Jones
Wilderness Vagabond Trip Report
First discovered by Richard Wetherill and his brothers, John and Al, in the late 1800s, it was soon realized that
America's Southwest was dotted with mysterious, very old pueblo village ruins. Built into high cliff ledges, the clustered assemblage of rooms resembles today's apartment style buildings.
After reports of looting and vandalism, protecting this scattering of prehistoric sites in the Southwest became a priority of Theodore Roosevelt's administration. Even though protection was signed into law, most places similar to Keet Seel had no on-site supervision or system to safeguard its archaeological resources. Here at the Navajo National Monument, Keet Seel and Betatakin artifacts were best preserved by their remote location. While most Puebloans ruins were exposed to centuries of wind, rain, and snow, reducing them to rubble, both Keet Seel and Betatakin were further protected from the elements by natural overhangs.
At the end of Arizona's State Route 564 lies the Navajo National Monument, home to the largest cliff dwelling village in the United States. Uninhabited for over seven centuries, Keet Seel (Kawestima) displays an astonishing condition of preservation. After a nine mile hike, visitors must climb a 70 foot ladder for their first close up look at this ancient wonder. Here, the dwelling floor is littered with clay vessels, pottery shards, food remnants and dislodged building bricks, just as the Hisatsinom had left it 750 years ago. The 160 room complex dates back to 1200 A.D. and is thought to have only been occupied for a short and very mysterious period of 50 years.
Keet Seel is one of three ancient pueblo villages located at the Navajo National Monument and is the only one allowing close-up views of the rooms and kivas. The dwellings are thought to have been built by the ancestors of the Hopi, called the Hisatsinom. The hike to Kawestima is not a leisurely stroll, as it requires a full day 18 mile roundtrip hike. A guide will accompany all visitors at the site and tours begin the Memorial Day weekend and end around Labor Day.
Keet Seel Permit Info
Additional Points of Interest
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