I enjoyed taking pictures of the jumpingfamily with the nice rock formations at Monuement Valley. But if you are going to use these photos for commercial purposes, a permit is required. Contact Dept of Broadcast Services PO Box 308 Window Rock, AZ 86515 Phone 928-871-6656.
Also, respect the privacy of the Navajo people when taking these shots.
At the very beginning of my Monument Valley page, I have written the poetry of Navajo Nation –
May you walk in Beauty.
Whenever you are in Monument Valley, at whichever time in the year, at whichever weather – take time for yourself, walk away from the crowds, sit there, breath slowly and immerse into that overwhelming tranquility of the scenery and feel the magic of Monument Valley.
And finally you will understand the poem:
May it be beautiful before me.
May is be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May I walk in beauty
Fondest memory: While adding these tips into my Monument Valley page, Richard Wagner and his Ride of the Valkyries is all around me – this and the pictures adding beams me back into Monument Valley, and tonight I will sleep walking in beauty :-)
Stay on the road that is marked unless your on a guided tour. There are other roads, but these are roads for residence only. You can easily get lost if your not familar with this area.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park Scenic Drive Hours
Summer (May-Sept) 6:00am - 8:30pm
Winter (Oct - Apr) 8:00am - 4:30pm
Camping fees - $10/night plus Entryfees $5/person
General Admission - $5.00
Ages 9 or under - Free
Monument Valley UT 84536
From Flagstaff, AZ, take U.S. Highway 89 north, 67 miles to U.S. Highway 160. Continue northeast on Route 160 for 62 miles to Kayenta, AZ. Monument Valley is 22 miles north of Kayenta Arizona, along U.S. Highway 163.
Navajo Nation Parks
These red-rock formations began as sandy sediments in a Permian ocean two hundred and seventy million years ago. Faulting and folding uplifted the strata along an upwarp one hundred miles long. The relentless blasting of wind and rain wear away the softer layers, creating these marvelous monoliths standing proud reminding us that time does endure and that being imperfect is beautiful.
The reddish hues come from iron oxide, and the black streaks of desert varnish on the cliff faces, from manganese oxide. An erosion-resistant layer of shale caps the pinnacles and delays the weathering of the softer layers below and creating such wonderful sculpture of nature.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park
PO Box 360289
Monument Valley, Utah 84536
(435)727-5874/5870 or (435)727-5875
The incredible deep red color of the lowest layer in Monument Valley is called Organ Rock Shale. Again, if we wouldn't try the scientific approach of explanation, we could easily assume that someone poured red paint all over the sand and rock.
Cutler Red Bed or Organ Rock Shale is the "earliest" layer that deposited once upon a time in the ancient seabed. The deep red, reddish brown and purple colors do contain a high amount of iron oxide.
But why that red ?
Depending on the "positioning" of iron containing minerals of rock layers in the sea water, they undergo "heavy" or "not so heavy" oxidation processes when exposed to oxygen.
The deeper they are located, the less oxygen is present, the less oxydation happens, the less red they get.
Remember - what is now Monument Valley, once was a shallow sea. This the sandstone, which was also porous, was close enough to the air and could undergo heavy oxydation processes - to turn into that red.
In addition, the porous Organ Rock shale is much easier "to grind" into fine sand(stone) particles than if it would be more packed as in deChelly Sandstone. So, the high amount of fine red sand particles of Organ Rock shale, also leads to this intense red - which is simply an effect of light refraction processes on fine particles (versus solid rock).
"Nowhere in the world can one find a similar effect of nature?s work. Words alone, the thousand-foot pyramid and castles, the slender tower, bridges and arches ? cannot begin to describe the sandstone formations that dominate Monument Valley.?
This once said Joesef Muench, the photographer.
And facing the landscape as it is ? it is indeed more of a mystic place, a place of imagination and dreams and cleansing than to even think about those hard facts of how it was formed.
Although I am (theoretically) a breed scientist, among these fascinating rocks I never had the feeling to want to know where it came from ? I just sit and wonder and enjoy and am enchanted of it?s overwhelming beauty. And still... :-)
As all the other magnificent red rock parks and nameless places in Southwest US, Monument Valley is part of the Colorado Plateau as well.
Ages ages ages ago, in the Permian period (250 ? 160 mio years ago), when our continents have not been "divided" as we know them today, and Pangea was the supercontinent, once there was a shallow sea, where red sand and mud deposited on the seabed, which over the ages was compressed into porous sandstone (of so-called Cutler bed formation).
Around eocene epoch (60 mio years ago), part of the Colorado Plateau pushed upward due to the pressure from below. Inevitably, as this kind of pressure is not happening evenly, cracks in the sandstone formed, which gave room for erosion processes to begin with their work. The sea receeded as well at some stage during this time and left a huge sandstone plateau exposed to Earth surface.
What we see in Monument Valley today, are the 4 different layers of the original seabed, which - due to their different chemical composition and “packaging” (or compression) during their formation - are differently exposed to the ways of erosion.
The four layers are:
Organ Rock Shale (the lowest one)
DeChelly Sandstone (the one, the buttes are “made of”)
Moenkopi Shale (the top layer)
Shinarump Formation (the very small layer on top which helds all together)
As for me it is fascinating to imagine the forming processes during the eons, I have included screenshots of Pangea and it's separation here, which show the "location" of Monument Valley during Permian and Eocene epochs.
They are taken from this fascination website on Earth History
The very last explanation is just on the term “butte” and “mesa”:
Mesas are the broad, flat hills called, which are rounded by cliffs and capped with a resistant rock layer (Moenkopi and Shinarump).
Example – as in the picture – Sentinel Mesa, in the north of Monument Valley.
Butte is a more narrow, free standing flat or square rock, with very steep sides, eventually formed out of a mesa.
Moenkopi Formation is of the time of Triassic period and has been "built" by sediments deposited by streams. Mud built up in tidal flats to finally form Moenkopi formation.
This formation is very prominent in Canyonlands. Who would like to have further reading upon that – please visit Canyonlands
Website and click around on the fantastic Interactive Geology Atlas ! (great stuff to learn from !!!)
Everything is being hold together by the Shinarump, which is a type of conglomerate, rocks that are cemented together to form hard layers.
On the picture – which shows Merrick Butte – the Moenkopi formation is the one on top of the “vertical” de Chelly Sandstone Butte, the darkish brown one. Shinarump is the one on top of that, a bit lighter in color.
The next layer to "form" in the seabed was deChelly Sandstone, a magnificent and magic formation which is found all over Colorado Plateau and has the most interesting colors and forms.
De Chelly Sandstone does not only form horizontal layers but is wedging and folding and turing during its formation – that’s why it is called of the type of crossbed sandstone. It can have angles up to 30° and more in the foldings and turnings.
Geologists believe that the crossbed stratification might also have been resulted by heavy blowing winds loaded with sand during the formation. And certainly the rounded shapes are a result of a small grain size of the deposited material (it would be not as round if the grains would have been bigger in size).
The De Chelly Sandstone has many fascinating faces in Monument Valley. Of course the Buttes and the Mesas, but also some hidden secrecies deep in Central Monument Valley – as on the pictures. Here, round plates and rocks are found which look as if The Holy People randomly have left them – or maybe they have been playing balls, left there which then turned into rocks ?
If you approach from the south, either from Grand Canyon or Phoenix or wherever, you go on AZ 160 until Kayenta, where you head north on UT/AZ 163. The view of the landmarks are not that dramatic as if you approach from the north – but still worth a stop.
From left: Sentinel Measa, Big Indian, Bringhams Throne, West Mitten, East Miotten and Mitchell Mesa
Harry wouldn’t have been that successful in Hollywood, presenting his valley – if not for Josef Muench ‘s photos. Josef prepared albums with great shots of the landscape, which Harry took to Hollywood and which convinced John Ford and the crew.
The picture shows one of these shots – and the second is Josef doing what he liked best :-)
He was very famous, one of the first to get into color landscape photographing – and you will come across many of his pictures in textbooks or illustrated books. He died in 1998, at the age of 94 !
His son, David Muench , even has stepped in his fathers footsteps, seems that he has the same adoring affection for Monument Valley as his father (see this website for amazing photos).
Monument Valley Tribal Park would most probably not be what it is today without the support of Harry Golding and his wife Mike. Harry was born in Colorado, and more of the sheepherder type. He moved into Monument Valley area in 1923 and established the trading post. THe and Mike loved the life there, quickly learned and liked the culture of Navajos.
After the depression in end of 1920-ies, business went down for Harry and the Navajos. He was desperately looking for new ideas to continue living.
In the 30-ies, when Hollywood started to make the first western movie (Stagecoach), Harry decided that he’ll risk offering Monument Valley as the perfect location.
He went to Hollywood, showed pictures to John Ford and within seconds it was decided that Monument Valley was THE place !
In Gouldings Museum you can learn more about these important days in Monument Valley’s history.
Fondest memory: Gouldings Museum
This is how Navajo refer to Monument Valley, as a monument as such does not mean anything to them. Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgaii means changing of the rocks – and it cannot be described better than with these words, as the rocks change constantly - in color, in erosion, in the atmosphere they create in you !
Please be aware that “Monument Valley” is a Tribal Park, run by Navajo Nation. So it is not included in the US NP network, NP passes are not valid. It is located in Navajo Reservation, or Dinétah. The park as such was established in 1958.
It is open for visitors all year long, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (winter) or 7 p.m. (summer). Admission fee is 5 USD.
For more information, call (435) 727-3353, or write to Monument Valley Tribal Park P.O. Box 360289, Monument Valley, Utah 84536, or visit the website at www.navajonationparks.org.
Here just the last picture for Monument Valley geology explanation - East Mitten Butte with it’s 4 layers.
And another wonderful view of the very upper layer - Shinarump - can be seen on Terraserver: Aerial View (Terraserver) of Merrick Butte
On the map you can get a rough idea of the locations you will experience in Monument Valley – Gouldings at the left, and the buttes and mesas and rock formations in the park on the right hand side.
A detailed map you can get at the Visitor Center.
Mine here is a scan of the book “Hiking Southwest’s Canyon Country” by Sarah Hinchman (see also my general tip on Utah).