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
Monument Valley is huge, spanning the Utah/Arizona border. Photos of the Mittens and the view of buttes from 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 Tribal Park at its present location east of US163. The state park has disappeared other than a nondescript entry with a map at stateparks.com.
The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The elevation of the valley floor ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,500 to 1,800 m) above sea level. The floor is largely siltstone of the Cutler Group, or sand derived from it, deposited by the meandering rivers that carved the valley. The valley's vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, blue-gray rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide. The buttes are clearly stratified, with three principal layers. The lowest layer is the Organ Rock Shale, the middle is de Chelly Sandstone, and the top layer is the Moenkopi Formation capped by Shinarump Conglomerate. The valley includes large stone structures including the famed "Eye of the Sun". [wikipedia]
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 Photo Gallery has eighteen photos in Monument Valley including panoramic photos of the Mittens (2) and the Totem Pole, and seven photos of buttes along US163 between Kayenta, AZ, and the Utah state line (three photos have awful shadows).
View Photos is an auto-show of the photos.
The Map includes maps of Monumenty Valley and Valley Drive identifying scenic viewpoints along Monument Valley Drive.