She was born Ellen Louise Ditzler in Pasadena, California. She graduated from Goucher College with a degree in art, and from the University of Montana with a master's degree in environmental studies. She married her husband Mark Meloy, a river ranger, in 1985. Her nephew is the musician and writer Colin Meloy and her niece is the writer Maile Meloy.
…in the desert there is everything and there is nothing. Stay curious. Know where you are—your biological address. Get to know your neighbors—plants, creatures, who lives there, who died there, who is blessed, cursed, what is absent or in danger or in need of your help. Pay attention to the weather, to what breaks your heart, to what lifts your heart. Write it down.
~E.M. November 2004
On the Colorado Plateau, with its considerable share of wildlands, a natural world more or less intact, the most exotic terrain may be the plateau's own history. During my recent journeys this history felt foreign and unnervingly off-the-Map, even as I lived in its heart. Gaze out from the mesa, and you will meet my duplicitous lover. You will see eternity, a desert that like no other place exudes the timelessness of nature as the final arbiter. Scrape off our century, and you will find its usurper, pressed into a nugget of inorganic matter, the single greatest threat to the continuity of life. The history inscribed itself on the Map's most alarming folios; ignoring it was no way to earn Home.
—Ellen Meloy, The Last Cheater's Waltz
- 1997 Whiting Award
- 2003 Pulitzer Prize nomination for The Anthropology of Turquoise Meditations on Landscape, Art & Spirit (2003)
- 2007 John Burroughs Medal Award 
- "GROUND ZERO", Salon, February, 24, 1999
- Raven's Exile: A Season on the Green River. H. Holt. 1994. ISBN 978-0-8050-2497-5.
- The Last Cheater's Waltz: Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest. University of Arizona Press. 2001. ISBN 978-0-8165-2153-1.
- The anthropology of turquoise: meditations on landscape, art, and spirit. Pantheon Books. 2002. ISBN 978-0-375-40885-4.
- Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild. Pantheon Books. 2005. ISBN 978-0-375-42216-4.
- Christopher J. Hunter, Ellen Meloy (1991). Tom Palmer, ed. Better trout habitat: a guide to stream restoration and management. Island Press. ISBN 978-0-933280-77-9.
- "Foreword". Sandstone seduction: rivers and lovers, canyons and friends. Big Earth Publishing. 2004. ISBN 978-1-55566-338-4.
- Bill McKibben, ed. (2008). American Earth: environmental writing since Thoreau. Literary Classics of the United States. ISBN 978-1-59853-020-9.
- Susan Wittig Albert, Susan Hanson, eds. (2007). "Think not of a Tectonic Plate but of a Sumptuous Feast". What wildness is this: women write about the Southwest. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-71630-8.
- William Kittredge, John Smart, eds. (1988). Montana spaces: essays and photographs in celebration of Montana. Photographer John Smart. Nick Lyons Books. ISBN 978-1-55821-000-4.
- "Of Note: Ellen Meloy Author". The Washington Post. November 13, 2004. p. B06.
- "Remembering Ellen Meloy", High Desert Journal, April 2005, Elizabeth Grossman Archived 2009-08-10 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-12-19. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- "Newsletter" (PDF). research.amnh.org.
- Ellen Meloy Official website
- Profile at The Whiting Foundation
- VERLYN KLINKENBORG (November 11, 2004). "APPRECIATIONS: Ellen Meloy". The New York Times.
- "Ellen Meloy's Deep Nomadology", rhizomes.13 Dianne Chisholm, fall 2006
- "The Art of Ecological Thinking: Literary Ecology", "ISLE 18.3" Dianne Chisholm, fall 2011
- Chisholm, Dianne. “Biophilia, Creative Involution, and the Ecological Future of Queer Desire.” In Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, and Desire. Eds. Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson. Indiana University Press. 359-81.