Monument Valley

Monument Valley

Monument Valley (Navajo name: Tsé Bii' Ndzisgaii, meaning valley of the rocks) is a large area on the Colorado Plateau in Utah and Arizona, inside Navajo Nation, that contains a cluster of vast sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 ft (300 m) above the valley floor.  Webster defines a valley as a long depression between ranges of hills or mountains.  That does not describe Monument Valley - it is a wide flat, sometimes desolate landscape, interrupted by rock formations rising hundreds of feet into the air that have not eroded as has the sandstone layers that once covered the entire region.  There is much to see here, and much diversity:  ancestral Puebloan ruins, desert, mountains, canyons, etc., but the thing that really catches the eye are the huge buttes and spires - the awesome monuments!

Monument Valley is huge, spanning the Utah/Arizona border.  Photos of the Mittens and the southern approach on US163 (the banner photo) are probably universally recognized landmarks.  Two separate parks were in Monument Valley: Monument Valley Utah State Park and Monument Valley Navajo Nation Tribal Park - the state park west of US163 near Oljeto Mesa and the airport, and the globeTribal Park at its present location east of US163.  The state park has disappeared other than a nondescript entry at stateparks.com.  The valley's earliest inhabitants include the Ice Age Paleo-Indian hunters (12,000-6,000 B.C.), Archaic hunter-gatherers (6,000 B.C.-A.D. 1), and Anasazi farmers (A.D. 1-1300).  As early as the 1300s, San Juan Paiutes frequented the area as temporary hunters and gatherers. They named it Valley or Treeless Area Amid the Rocks. [Utah History Encyclopedia]

In 1938, John Ford and John Wayne made Stagecoach, the movie that first brought Monument Valley to the attention of the film and tourist industries.  Since then, Monument Valley has been a favorite for photographers and filmmakers.  Ford returned nine times to shoot western movies.  A popular lookout point is named in his honor as John Ford's Point - it was used by Ford in a scene in The Searchers.