Walnut Canyon is most noted for his archeological interest. The people who lived in the canyon are now referred to as the "Sinagua", Spanish for "without water". Without the geology of the canyon however, there would be no human history there to speak of. This is because many of the dwellings in Walnut Canyon are located in recessed areas along the canyon walls. These living areas were created over many years of erosion of limestone layers which are easily eroded by water. Most of the cliff dwellings were situated in caverns that faced south and east to take full advantage of the warming sunlight. There are a few that face west or north that may have been occupied during the warmer months.
The Sinagua first appeared in the Flagstaff area of Arizona around A.D. 600. At this time they lived in pithouses and practiced agriculture. After occupying this area for some time, the Sinagua people moved into cliff dwellings that were built between 1125 and 1250. During these years the geographical extent of the Sinagua ranged from eastern slopes of the San Francisco Peaks northeast to the Little Colorado River and south to the Verde River valley. Evidence shows that trade was going on between the Sinagua and people as far away as the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of California.
Sinagua homes remained largely undisturbed until the 19th century. Inthe 1880's the railroad brought souvenir hunters to the ancient dwellings. Theft and destruction promoted local efforts to preserve the canyon and soon drew national support. In 1915 Walnut Canyon was declared a national monument. Nearly 800 years have passed since Sinagua people occupied the canyon.
The General park map handed out at the visitor center is available on the park's map webpage.For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.
A geology photo album for this park can be found here.For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.
Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.
Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout
The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!
Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.
For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.
The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.
A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.
NPS Geology and Soils PartnersAssociation of American State Geologists
Geological Society of America
Natural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
U.S. Geological Survey
General information about the park's education and intrepretive programs is available on the park's education webpage.For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.