Monument Valley Tribal Park - Origins and Information

Monument Valley
Monument Valley, or Tsť Bii' Ndzisgaii to give it its Navajo name (meaning valley of the rocks) - a rugged desert landscape with its instantly recognisable sandstone towers - has enchanted and inspired for generations. Monument Valley isn't actually a valley at all, but is in fact an upwarp - a geological uplift, or monocline riddled with faults. Monument Upwarp stretches from Cob Ridge and the San Juan River on the Arizona-Utah border, to the north and Black Mesa to the south. At an elevation of 5,564 feet, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park covers an area of 91,696 acres (2,000 square miles) - extending into both Arizona and Utah. The sandstone buttes with their affectionate names like: Owl, Bear, Rabbit, Mittens, Three Sisters, Elephant Butte and Rain God Mesa, vary in heights of between 400 to over 1,000 feet, and rise majestically out of the valley floor.

Monument Valley was once part of a vast inland sea. The buttes are formed of three principal stratified layers. The lowest layer is Organ Rock shale, the middle de Chelly sandstone and the top layer is Moenkopi shale capped by Shinarump siltstone. The unusual rock formations are remnants of mesas (flat topped mountains), which have been sculpted over the ages by the combined erosive forces of wind and rain. Mesas erode firstly into buttes like the Elephant, and then into tall, slender spires like the Three Sisters. The colour of these rock formations - deep orange and red have been stained by iron oxide and tarnished black with streaks of manganese oxide. Human presence in Monument Valley began with the prehistoric Kayenta Anasazi people, with the San Juan Band Paiutes following in their footsteps around 1300 AD. Then in the early 1700s Spanish and Mexican expeditions explored the region. In 1884 President Chester Arthur added the area to the Navajo Reservation - officially making it the home of the Navajo Indian Nation, and the Tribal Park was established in 1958. Between 1948 and 1967 the southern extent of the upwarp was mined for uranium which occurs in scattered areas of the Shinarump siltstone.

The movie director John Ford used Monument Valley for the seminal Stagecoach - filmed in 1939 and starring John Wayne. He was so enamoured by the place he returned to shoot a further nine Westerns here - even if the were set elsewhere - like The Searchers for example which was based in Texas. A popular lookout point in the Park - the "John Ford Point" was subsequently named in his honour. The iconic backdrop has also been used in countless other movies of differing genres - from science fiction in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey to Back to the Future III. To road movies such as Easy Rider and Thelma and Louise - spy movies like Clint Eastwood's Eiger Sanction and adventure stories such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Not to mention groundbreaking environmental documentaries such as Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi. View images of Monument Valley by Richard Lumb here

Other Images of Arizona include
: flora, wildlife, trees,

National Parks: Grand Canyon, Walnut Canyon, Sunset Crater and Wutapki Monument, Montezuma Castle and Well.

Attractions: Apache Trail, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, Meteor Crater, Monument Valley Tribal Park, Oak Creek Canyon, Slide Rocks State Park, Taliesin West, Flagstaff Arboretum, and Towns and Cities: Flagstaff and envrions, Prescott.

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Please report any problems with links here. Copyright Jacquie Lumb 2007. All rights reserved. Highfield Studio Services