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Image credit © Dustin Naef “The Confluence”.

Breaking Sacred Ground: The Confluence, and Disruption of the Balance of Origin Sites

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The Four Corners region of the United States is too mediocre a name to describe so vast an expanse of the Southwest, representing the corners of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. The extraordinary canyons and red-rock landscapes took millions of years to create; for spectacular beauty and grandeur, the Southwest’s stunning scenery defies categorization, and is unlike any other place on the planet.

Four Corners is a broadly-defined region within a 500-mile (805 km) radius of where theses four states intersect.

When travelers speak of the “Four Corners,” they may be driving from Zion National Park into Arizona towards the Grand Canyon, or through New Mexico, Colorado, and Monument Valley, passing near numerous national parks, historical monuments, popular cities, and unnamed, remote vistas which traverse the region; but it’s impossible to visit, appreciate and see everything during a single journey.

One of the planet’s greatest natural treasures is found in the Four Corners region.

Image credit © Dustin Naef “The Grand Canyon”.

Image credit © Dustin Naef “The Grand Canyon”.

A Wonder of the World

The Grand Canyon is rightly called one of the wonders of the world. When Teddy Roosevelt dedicated it as a national monument, he famously said: “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve upon it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

Image credit © Dustin Naef “The Grand Canyon”.

Image credit © Dustin Naef “The Grand Canyon”.

On a remote edge of the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, the cragged rim of the Grand Canyon plunges thousands of feet to a place at the bottom, where the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers meet. The spectacle of the canyon from this vantage point is too immense to take in at first glance; it’s a sight where the phrase “once seen, never forgotten,” may have very well been first said.

This place is called the Confluence.

Image credit © Dustin Naef “The Confluence”.

Image credit © Dustin Naef “The Confluence”.

In spite of its close proximity to the Grand Canyon’s south rim—one of the world’s busiest tourist destinations—this part of the canyon is as nearly remote, unseen, and uninhabited today, as it has been since prehistoric times. It is still the traditional home to the Diné, or Navajo people.

A Sacred Site

Many Native Americans throughout the Four Corners region view the Confluence as sacred site; it is an origin-creation place, where life first emerged.

Native Americans still undertake rugged journeys on foot for hundreds of miles, following the ancient footpaths of their ancestors along prehistoric trails descending thousands of feet into the canyon to reach the Confluence, a journey essential to honoring their traditions. Many different tribes make pilgrimages every year into this remote region of the canyon, and have sacred places there which have never been forgotten or abandoned.

Image credit © “Cathedral of the Moon” Loree Johnson.

Image credit © “Cathedral of the Moon” Loree Johnson.

Indigenous people view these sacred sites as creation-origin points, and also places that help keep the universe flowing in balance and harmony. When that harmony and balance is threatened or lost—we are not only harming the planet, we are also harming ourselves too, because all life is interconnected.

Natural Temples and Holy Places

I have always been interested in North American history, legends, folklore, and ancient sacred sites. All of the National Parks located throughout the United States were, and still are, sacred sites to indigenous people, and many others too; who don’t just go to these places to look around, these places are culturally thought of as natural, creator-made temples; the dwelling places of sacred and holy beings. People go to visit these places for prayer, spiritual guidance, healing, and ceremony; they aren’t thought of as scenic stop-overs along the highways between cities, or popular vacation spots.

In modern times, non-Native people from all over the world also travel to these places with a well-meaning desire to reconnect with nature, to experience a moment of quietness which has been driven out of the cities. But one of the unintended consequences this “yearning for the sacred” has created is that many of these sites have been overwhelmed by large crowds, poorly managed, vandalized, and sometimes even carelessly destroyed by commercial development; which directly threatens the balance of nature.

Image credit © “Monumental Sunrise” Loree Johnson.

Image credit © “Monumental Sunrise” Loree Johnson.

Last year I was traveling through the Four Corners region of the Southwest and had the extraordinary privilege of visiting the Confluence as a guest; I was on a research trip in Sedona, Arizona doing a story about the tension between modern New Age spiritualists, and the commercial exploitation of Native American culture, and sacred sites.

I had an opportunity to spend a day with a Navajo archeologist, and we were able to talk about a lot of these issues surrounding the Confluence, which is being threatened today by a developer who wants to build a multi-million-dollar resort and gondola-tram to carry 10,000 people a day down into the canyon, to a place of emergence which has been a sacred site to indigenous people of the Southwest since time immemorial.

Modern Development

Traditionally places like the Confluence are not spoken of outside of tribal families; but sometimes when they’re threatened it becomes necessary for people to speak out about them, in hopes of protecting and preserving them in their natural state. After spending a day on the reservation at the Confluence, and learning about how much this place meant to the people living out there, I walked away from the experience thinking that these last few places on the Earth should just be left alone. Entirely.

Image credit © “Horseshoe Bend Sunset” Loree Johnson.

Image credit © “Horseshoe Bend Sunset” Loree Johnson.

We filmed our day trip out to the Confluence to show other people how special these places are to the Navajo and other tribes, in hopes that others will begin to stand up for these places too, and speak out against their continuing misuse and desecration.

Image credit © “Eagle Mesa Storm Clouds” Loree Johnson.

Image credit © “Eagle Mesa Storm Clouds” Loree Johnson.

To learn more about the Confluence and information about how you could help protect and preserve these places please watch the film, and visit:

Breaking Sacred Ground: The Confluence from Dustin Naef on Vimeo.

Dustin Naef is author of “Mount Shasta's Forgotten History & Legends” Available on Amazon and other major online Booksellers September 30, 2016. See more at:


Top Image: Image credit © Dustin Naef “The Confluence”.

By Dustin Naef


Save The Confluence, 2016 [Online] Available at:




I live in Utah, and the northern end of the Grand Canyon begins with the Confluence of the Colorado, Green, San Juan, and the Virgin Rivers. Under the Obama administration a mining group under political Control of the EPA allowed the release of Mining chemicals that severely polluted the San Juan drainage and collected in Lake Powell to eventually collect in Lake Mead.

The entire event was a travesty, yet nothing was ever done to Obama or the EPA, and it poisoned the water ways of farmers, Navajos in both Colorado and Utah. The government needs to make amends to the farmers of the Four Corners.

Damn criminals.

I consider US sovereign rights over this area no more legitimate than Chinese authority in Tibet and that's an understatement, by any reasonable impartial standard, whether judging from the viewpoint of history, culture or improvement to the living conditions of the native population.

I've been to Hovenweep and the Museum at Mesa Verde. The Museum at Mesa Verde had examples of shells from the California Coast - Abilone, as well as items from the lands of the Chinook in the Pacific Northwest, trade items from the Hohokia mounds, as well as the Atlantic people and the 6 nations. The Anasazi probably had dealings in trade with the Sioux before they became a Plains Tribe.

There is a pair of writers, and they are both ethnologists and physical anthropologists - the Gear's. They've written a slew of fictional books based on anthropological fact. A very successful writing duo...

“My meaning is that the Anasazi would trade with other cultures and bring those trade items back from hundreds (if not thousands - it is believed, and I can be corrected on this that the Anasazi may have traded deep into Mexico; of miles from their home lands.”

You are absolutely Correct...Chocolate and Cocoa Leaf Residue has recently been indentified in Ceramics, which suggests the possibility of trade as far away as South America.


This area is critical four a number of reasons: 1) Water, Utah is the second driest state in the nation. The Grand Canyon - both the north and southern plateaus are true desert - qualified by 5" of annual precipitation or less; 2) native American culture is extremely varied by tribe, culture, and technology. The area is not cold except during the winter - very temperate. There can be a significant amount of snow in the area of Utah - the state I live in - which is the credible amount of water acquired in the common natural catchments.

If you go to Hovenweep, not too far away from Blanding on the Navajo Indian Reservation, you can see how the Basket Maker 1 culture of the Anasazi ("ancient enemy") developed catchments in the canyons and mesas of the area. At this part of their development, the Anasazi were building around, in, and on top of the Mesa's, instead of what you see in Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde. The people were a magnificent culture as well as effective traders. My meaning is that the Anasazi would trade with other cultures and bring those trade items back from hundreds (if not thousands - it is believed, and I can be corrected on this that the Anasazi may have traded deep into Mexico; of miles from their home lands. The virtual dead center of the "Four Corners Region is where the Anasazi started. There is a plethora of materials written about these people, and their cultural development. If you have the opportunity, go to Mesa Verde. You have to walk and hike, don't expect some of these parks / monuments to be a piece of cake. The terrain can go from 12K miles + to the river bottom of the Colorado, and it's various tributaries: The Animas Rive (arm of the San Juan River) - recently polluted with high arsenic and lead content from a mine not too far away from Durango, Colorado by an inept contractor of the EPA, Dirty Devil River, Duschesne River, Escalante River, Freemont River, Kanab Creek, McElmo Creek, Montezuma Creek (arm of the San Juan River the Green River, Virgin River, Paria River, Price River, Range Creek, San Rafael River, Waweap River, White River (arm of the Green). So there is water available, but unless their were man made catchments from about 7,000 to 1,500 BC. As the earth's orbit shifted, because of the position of nearby celestial bodies the water would dry up;

3) There were several cultures of hunter gatherers to the northwest, who were the ancestors of the Goshutes and the Paiutes. The Fremont culture lived and died in this time period. I was always of the opinion that the Basket Maker II culture absorbed the Fremont, but that is a culture I have not devoted much time to, and I apologize for that. North, in the Uintah, (Utah) and western mountains ranges of Colorado were the onset of the mountain native Americans of both the Ute and the Ouray.

3) The color of the rock is attributed to iron oxide in the rock. Bright red is Kayenta (KI - enta), a dull orangish red has limited iron oxide residue, and Wingate sand stone has no iron oxide residue. The reason why Utah is referred to as the king of red rock...

D.W. Naef's picture

D. W. Naef

Dustin Naef is an expert about Mount Shasta’s history and folklore, and has lived at the base of California’s legendary mountain for most of his adult life. His writings about Mount Shasta take a different tack than much of the... Read More

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