You will know Monument Valley, even if you have never been here, as the backdrop to so many of the most famous Westerns, and a few other films too. The first, and perhaps the most famous, to be filmed here was Stagecoach in 1938. Others include: My Darling Clementine, The Searchers, How the West was Won, The Trial of Billy Jack, The Legend of the Lone Ranger, The Eiger Sanction, Back to the Future III, and The Wild Wild West.
I read an interesting story about how these films came to be made here. Back in the years of the Depression the owner of the nearby trading past, Harry Goulding (the settlement of Goulding is of course named for him) was concerned about his own livelihood and that of the local Navajo. He set off for Hollywood armed with spectacular pictures of Monument Valley. Unable at first to get an appointment with the famous director, John Ford, he spread his bedroll on the floor of the receptionist's office and refused to budge. She relented, Ford looked at the photos, and was impressed enough to take a trip to Monument Valley and to choose it as the location for Stagecoach. A new movie set was born.
I also read that hundreds of Navajos were cast as Apaches, Cheyenne, Comanche and other Indians in Stagecoach, but whatever the tribe they were being seen to represent, they spoke only Navajo. No one else on the set could understand them, but it seems that if they could, the dialogue would have been changed, as some of the lines they inserted would have never made it past the censor if he had been a Navajo speaker!
Gnarled JUNIPER TREES add a splash of green contrast to the red sandstone terrain.
Native Americans used Junipers for just about everything. Branches were turned into digging sticks and farming tools. The wood from the Juniper was made into fence posts and bows to catch wild animals. The scaly bark was used to make sandals, mats and baskets. Juniper berries were often integrated into necklaces and other jewelry. Though bitter, the berries were often made into tea.
In this unforgiving and harsh environment, flora and fauna are determined to grow here. So, please watch where you step as not to harm delicate plant life. Nature depends on them.
#6 View is THE HUB a massive rock and sandstone formation. Hogans can be seen in this area of Monument Valley.
RAIN GOD MESA - elevation 5,932 feet
In picture # 4 Pinnacles at the edge of Rain God Mesa. To the left is part of Thunderbird Mesa.
Hands down, the iconic ARTIST'S POINT (#9 View) is absolutely stunning. It offers a panoramic view of the Valley. Peaks in view include Merrick Butte - East Mitten - Spearhead Mesa - Rain God Mesa - Cly Butte and Elephant Butte.
Hans and I were thoroughly amazed at the sight of this view before us. Totally a spiritual experience.
Favorite thing: When viewed from the south, CAMEL BUTTE (view #5) is a massive sandstone formation that resembles a Camel lying down. You can actually picture its head and hump. One of my favourite buttes.
In Navajo culture, the Yei is a slender figure that represents a supernatural being, one with the power to heal. Male Yeis' have round heads, while the female Yeis' are shown with square or rectangular heads.
The YEI BI CHEI are side-facing figures representing a line of Navajo Dancers impersonating Yeis. One ceremony is a healing ritual and the Yei Bi Chei dance can last many days until the ailing patient is healed.
One of the most well known peaks in the Valley, the TOTEM POLE is a tall, red sandstone column 450 feet high, but only 40 feet across.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Located on the southern border of Utah, MONUMENT VALLEY NAVAJO TRIBAL PARK is a region of the Colorado Plateau, characterized by a cluster of vast and iconic sandstone buttes, the largest reaching 1,000 feet above the valley floor. The Valley lies within the Navajo Nation Reservation and is accessible from U.S. Highway #163. The Navajo name for the Valley is Tse' Bii' Ndziagaii - Valley of the Rocks.
The Valley's vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered Cutler Red siltstone. The darker, blue-gray rocks get their color from manganese oxide.
Monument Valley has been featured in many films, such as in Westerns by director John Ford ( #4 Overlook is named after him).
Near the entrance to the Park is a Visitor Center, with rest rooms and a large souvenir shop. Visitors pay an access fee of $5.00 U.S. per person which allows you to drive through the park on a 17-mile (27 km) unpaved dirt road. Parts of Monument Valley are only accessible by guided tour, such as Mystery Valley and Hunt's Mesa.
I was soooo looking forward to see Monument Valley for myself as I have heard and read so much about it. For sure, I was not disappointed. It was all and more than I anticipated
Fondest memory: Things got off to a bad start when we were informed that the campground was in the process of being moved. It seemed a hotel was being constructed on the site of the old one I had camped in many years ago. Not that it was anything special and in fact was quite over-priced for the amenities provided. Oddly, now fifteen years later it was the same price for the new temporary spots. We arrived on a bluff to find a small string of porta-toilets and a few picnic tables thankfully covered to help fend off a merciless sun. While a dense forest would be unrealistic to ask for, what was being passed off as a campground was wishful thinking. If it were being offered for free like at Canyon de Chelly it would be fine but to make people pay for such a ramshackle spot was a good way to get off to a bad start. To be fair, the bluff location was scenic, with a direct view of the park's hallmark formations-The Mittens but with the wind whipping across the exposed spot, our tent was being bent into shapes out of a Salvador Dali painting. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: As we drove out of Monument Valley Tribal Park, my old feelings of disappointment were somewhat fading. While I was not entirely happy with the way the park was being run, it seemed to have changed for the better since my first visit and there were obviously big changes coming. Some of them might not be what I would like to see. A hotel so close to such a special place seems incongruous with maintaining the area's sacred qualities. But with a new visitor center on its way with it, it can only be hoped that there will be an effort to give not only better value to their visitors but also a better understanding of their ancestors and in so doing a better appreciation of common bonds of mankind.
Fondest memory: We went back to the park to do the loop through the valley's main features as the sun was making its way towards the horizon. On my first visit, I was nearly coerced into taking the park-based guided tour but was happy to find that type of hard sell all but gone this time around. While I am sure there are some insights into Native American folklore on the tour, I am more into taking photos and prefer to travel at my own pace rather than be herded around. I would rather get my history lesson in a visitor center or at an evening program. Neither of these were available at the park as of spring of 2008. The drive is magnificent and very much doable in a regular car. The initial quarter mile is a bit rough but it smooths out after that. It almost seems like they leave the first part rough to discourage you from driving in on your own, but that's just a guess no doubt influenced by the lack of any attempt to provide the amenities of what I think a park should when charging an entrance fee. (continued below in Fondest Memory)