Learn Something New Every Day!

Monument Valley 4Even before I visited Monument Valley, I knew of its iconic vistas and buttes from many of the old westerns like Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and Cheyenne Autumn. Its use as a location, however, is not limited to westerns; the area was also featured in such productions as Easy Rider and two recent episodes of Dr. Who.

Of course, seeing the place in a movie is nothing like being there.  As filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich explains, “It’s breathtaking. You can’t believe it. It’s very photogenic; it has a kind of mythic feeling of age, of legend. . . You’ve seen it in the movies, but when you see it in life, it’s so epic in its proportions that it almost stands for the whole of the West.”

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I felt the various contrasts inherent in Monument Valley when I first visited years ago:  grandeur and simplicity, immediacy and timelessness, and vibrant beauty and engaging solitude cannot be overlooked.  Even though there are many visitors and tour groups sharing the road, I was patient.  The crowds eventually moved on and I discovered a few treasured moments of solitude.

IMG_5731The geology of the area helps add to its grandeur.  Monument Valley is part of the Colorado Plateau, which covers 130,000 square miles. More than 50 million years ago the area was a lowland basin that over lots and lots of time and extensive layers of sedimentation, ceaseless pressures from below the surface and eventual geological uplifts was transformed into a plateau.  Then wind and water took over the task of creating the dramatic vistas and formations evident today.

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The current elevation of the valley floor ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet.  The floor is basically siltstone from the Cutler Group.  Iron oxide gives the area its red color.  The blue gray rocks get their color from manganese oxide.  The buttes are clearly stratified in several distinct layers:  Organ Rock Shale, de Chelly Sandstone, and Shinarump Conglomerate.  These buttes rise high above the valley floor with many reaching 400 to 1,000 feet in elevation.

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In 1884 President Chester Arthur added the region that comprises Monument Valley to the Navajo Nation.  The park itself rests mainly in Arizona but spreads into Utah and New Mexico as well. It covers close to 92,000 acres, equal to about 45 square miles.  The tribal name for Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is Tse Bii Ndzisgaii, meaning Valley of the Rocks. Tourists can view many of the iconic buttes and mesas by driving the 17-mile scenic loop.  Navajo-led tours give access to other areas of the park as well.

IMG_5707On my most recent visit (April 2015), I traveled to Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, heading north on Highway 163 through Kayenta, Arizona.  The landscape is vast and open, and eventually rock formations start rising along the route, suggesting what is to come.

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The first full panoramic view of Monument Valley in the distance is remarkable.

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IMG_5771It was a hazy day.  When strong winds picked up, I was glad I opted to drive the 17-mile scenic loop myself rather than being part of an official tour.  The tour groups were in open-air shuttles.  I at least could roll up my windows!  Fortunately, the little dust storms were short-lived and only happened a couple times throughout the day.

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IMG_6040It is expected that the scenic drive will take at least 2 to 3 hours to complete.  I managed to stay out all day, relishing the beauty and the solitude. The drive alternates between showcasing panoramic vistas and then closer views of the many park formations.  There are overlooks and parking areas, allowing visitors to take short hikes throughout the day.

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IMG_5831IMG_5934Being there in the spring, I was able to see some wildflowers along with the ever present juniper trees.  I was even fascinated by dirt, rocks and clouds. The only animals I saw were a couple horses and a wandering dog.  My bet is they belong to the several Navajo families that live within the park.

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Purple Sage

Purple Sage

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The Scenic Loop starts near the East and West Mittens and Merrick Butte.  These three formations are probably some of the most familiar within Monument Valley.

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Elephant Butte

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Camel Butte

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Three Sisters

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Totem Pole & Yei Bichei

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 The Hub 

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Cliffrose

Cliffrose

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The Thumb 

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Rabbitbrush

Rabbitbrush

Mojave Yucca

Mojave Yucca

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The Cube

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Spearhead Mesa 

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Thunderbird & Rain God Mesas

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Artist’s Point Overlook

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IMG_6043As the day ended, it was hard to head back to my hotel.  Next time, I hope to stay at the Inn right on the property, so it would be easier to be around for sunset and sunrise photos.  Then again, I do not really need an excuse to visit Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park again.  If you have not visited this majestic place yet, add it to your list.

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Monument Valley 1

Monument Valley 2

Where do you visit over and over again, seeing something new each time?

 

 

Comments on: "MONUMENT VALLEY NAVAJO TRIBAL PARK" (19)

  1. Utah and Wyoming are the two places I visit every few years. Utah especially shows me new things on every visit. Love the rocks!

  2. Patti- Wonderful photos and brings back great memories of photographing one of my favorite parks. Such an amazing expanse of natural beauty.

    • Jane: Thanks for stopping by. You are so right about MV being such an amazing expanse. I’m glad my photos brought back some memories.

  3. Definitely need to add it to my list!! Thanks for the tour 🙂

  4. Wow! These photos are spectacular! You always make me feel I’m right there with you on your trip. I’ll definitely have to add this to my bucket list! Thank you!

  5. Such an awesome place. You captured it beautifully.

  6. Incredible!
    I started blogging this month, and it is a pleasure that I came across your blog.
    It has inspired me to start my next article.
    Thank you:)

    • Thanks for stopping by. As a former English teacher, I love to hear about people deciding to write a blog or anything! Keep up the effort!

  7. What a magnificent and awesome-looking place, Margaret. I enjoyed reading about your visit there, and its history, and seeing it through your wonderful photographs. If I ever visit the US, I would love to see this place.

  8. […] with Wings starts with Bernie and Chee planning a short vacation to Monument Valley to visit one of Chee’s relatives.  It is their first get-away since their honeymoon two years […]

  9. […] ruins at Chaco Culture National Historic Park or wander on their own a bit across the landscape at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.  But Canyon de Chelly is special. Its mark of distinction is its link to the past.  Native […]

  10. […] from Moab, Utah, on U.S. Highway 191 South, heading to Kayenta, Arizona?  Me neither.  I love Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park—it is one of my favorite destinations.  However, every time I have visited, I have accessed the […]

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