October 4, 2012

#97 Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is a Navajo Tribal Park established in 1958 and consists of about 91,696 square feet.  People still live inside the Tse-Bii-Nszisgaii (the valley within the rock) and sustain life through simple living - there is no running water or electricity on the valley floor.


There is a 17 mile UNPAVED road that is open to all visitors and has viewpoints of the major monuments. (I emphasize unpaved because seriously, buy a tour - this road is primitive and I wouldn't want to drive my car down there.)  The additional benefit of touring with a Navajo guide is that you can access restricted use areas beyond the public road.

Quick tip for deciphering which type of formation you are looking at:

  • Mesa - rock formation that looks like a table.  A mesa is usually wide, stable, and the first stage of erosion.
  • Butte - rock formation that is smaller (and looks like a bar stool vs a table); its the second stage of erosion from a mesa.
  • Spire - rock formation that becomes narrow and free standing.  Its the final stage of erosion from a butte - once eroded by wind and water only the bottom Organ rock remains.
Also Monument Valley is a great place for "Rocks That Look Like Stuff"!

The East and West Mittens Buttes look like hands, yet signifies spiritual beings watching over.

Merrick Butte is named after a man who worked for General Custer when 9,000 Navajos were marched in captivity to Fort Sumner, NM in 1864.

Mitchell Mesa

Here you can see Brigham's Tomb, King On His Throne, Stagecoach, and Big Chief.

Elephant Butte - think of the GOP logo to visualize the elephant.


Can you see it?

The Three Sisters - a Catholic nun facing her two pupils.

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John Ford's Point - named after Hollywood director who made John Wayne famous.  We also learned that Johnny Depp will be returning to Monument Valley later this fall to finish shooting The Lone Ranger.

Thunderbird Mesa shows a chief in profile near the right side of the picture with a thunderbird behind him encompassing the rest of the mesa.

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The Sleeping Dragon  - its head is in the bottom left of the frame - lying on its stomach with the body sprawled behind it.

Sun's Eye - I imagine at certain times of day the eye's shadow makes it look like it is crying.


Near Sun's Eye there are also Petroglyphs (these are in the restricted use area of the valley).
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We learned that the Navajo word(s) Anasazi translate roughly into Ana (enemy) and Asazi (short) - they say the Anasazi were only  about 4 feet tall and that they were defeated and driven south to Chile by the Navajo generations ago.  Interestingly enough, the Navajo word Alaske (pronounced pretty much like Alaska) translates to forefathers who traveled north.

Ear of the Wind




These plants were a crazy color of green - it doesn't translate well on film, but the hue of green against the red rock was spectacular.

Big Hogan - this was worth the price of admission right here.  The hole is directly overhead, and our guide told us he had some experience with people getting dizzy and falling over - so we laid against the rock wall and enjoyed some peace while he sang a Navajo welcome song and Amazing Grace.  


The opening is the eye of an eagle - can you see it?


As you leave Big Hogan the rock looks like a Mohawk Indian warrior. 


With the hole at the crown of his head.  The natural black on the rock is his hair.

Totem Pole and Yei Bi Chei
This spire monument is an example of what erosion does to a butte.  A totem pole is a historical or mythical marker created by Northeastern tribes.  The Yei Bi Chei (Navajo spiritual gods) is a formation of dancers emerging from a hogan.


North Window

Camel Butte 

Cly Butte - named after a well known Navajo medicine man who is buried at the foot of the formation.
However, our guide told us that it really looks like Alfred Hitchcock (on the left) laying on his back.

I LOVED Monument Valley (although even with a qualified guide the roads were exceptionally treacherous).  It really is a place where, as the Navajo say, time stands still long enough for you to feel the harmony and peace of the last western frontier.