I had seen the cave from I-40 several times as I passed over the bridge and glanced down in the bottom of Canyon Diablo (Spanish for the “Devil’s Cave”) and never really thought anything of it although I made a note in my head to explore it someday. When that day came we made our way down into the canyon which is rather tricky to say the least and to the magnificent cave at the bottom. It was well worth the trek down into the canyon and a memory I will always cherish.
Canyon Diablo is just east of Flagstaff, Arizona on I-40 and according to Navajo legend the area is cursed by the dead and anyone who tries to reside there risks upsetting the angry spirits who long ago met a terrible fate in the cave at the bottom of the canyon. But the story told by the Navajo elders has more to say about the place and the cave than just a curse because they tell a story of how a lost band of Apaches were in the area in 1878 conducting raids on Navajo encampments. In one of those raids the Apache killed the inhabitants of a Navajo camp including men, women, and children and only three girls managed to somehow survive the bloody raid. Those three girls were taken by the Apaches and the village was ransacked.
The Navajo leaders discovered the massacre and organized a party to exact revenge on the Apache raiders. They dispatched about 24 of their best warriors to track the Apaches down and as they were doing this news reach the Navajo elders that the Apache had conducted yet another raid on another Navajo settlement! That second raid had taken place near Canyon Diablo and the elders dispatched a search party to the area to find the marauding Apaches.
The Navajo warrior search party went out but could not find the Apaches and they were about to give up the search. That is when the search party came across something bizarre! A blast of very hot air suddenly shot up through the ground, the elders say, which of course startled the warriors and their horses. When they took a closer look the Navajo warriors discovered that the Apaches were held up in a huge underground cave so big that it could hold 42 men and their horses! The blast of very hot air they had felt was coming from the fires lit by the Apaches in the underground cave which had made the ground very warm. Thus, the Apache fires had given them away to the Navajo warriors!
The Navajo warriors knew they had to stop the Apache marauders so they devised a plan to rid themselves of them and it was a diabolical plan to say the least. Some of the warriors ambushed and killed the Apache lookout and other warriors gathered as much Continue Reading