No wonder that the name of the everpresent bushes is snakewood – that’s the place where rattlesnakes are escaping from sun and heat.
So either if you walk or are on horseback – be careful !
However – horses know those little ones – I was always amazed how a rattlesnake is afraid of them. So riding would even keep you safer :-)
Hope, the officials don’t mind that I place Smokey Bear here to warn of forest fires. But, during all my travels in US I was fascinated of the successful campaign of creating the bear as a “living figure” to give the message to prevent forest fires.
So: wherever you are in Monument Valley (and of course also outside of it) – be careful when lighting a fire.
Moreover, as Monument Valley is not a National Park, but a Tribal Park, which includes that people live here, whose life is depending on an environment where they can herd their sheep and thus need any kind of plants !
Don’t throw away cigarettes or matches, don’t cook with open fire when not protecting it against wind – the best of all would even be not to light a fire at all.
It is said that 9 out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans.
A bit off-topic, but nevertheless interesting: Smokey Bear is actually based on an orphan baby black bear, who was found after a big forest fire in 1950.
You can read more about this, and also about wildfires, what they do, and how to prevent them on Smokey Bears Website
The picture is a 1964 poster of Smokey Bear campaign.
Most of the park can only be seen from the Valley Drive. It's a 17 mile dirt road which starts at the Visitors Center. Though the man at the desk assured us it was accessible for all kind of cars, the road was very uneven and difficult for non 4 wheel drive vehicles.
We had to turn back after 2 miles.
It is probably kept in such a state to keep the business of the Navajo guides running, who provide 4WD jeep excursions at the Visitors Center.
There is lots to see besides dust and rocks in a desert. You only have to look a bit closer at things. There are a lot of lizards in the dessert, but they are more scared from you, that the other way round. When you are quiet and look carefully you will spot them. But do leave them in peace, and just enjoy looking at them.
I don't know for sure but I think this is a Collared lizard. One of my travelbooks explained to me that : 'The collard lizard can be shades of yellow, green or brown and is often found sunning itself on a rock'. Lizards are carnivores. You can spot them on top of a rock, basking in the sun, warming up enough to go out hunting. From these exposed locations, they claim their territory, attract mates, and search for food.
Please correct me if it's not the collared lizard. I am always curious to know a bit more about the animals I spot
Beware : don't reach blindly under bushes, rocks or into holes. Rattlesnakes, scorpions and spiders do occur within the park.
Sure it looks hot and sunny in the pic, but if you come in winter be prepared for real cold weather and even snow. It might not seem possible but that is t he case. The temp in this pic is about 32 F or about 0 C. Just be prepared and remember its not always hot in the desert! Especially at night
Some try to spare money by taking 'their' car (mostly a rental, which seems to make it even more easy to choose this option) into the dusty roads of the Monument Valley Park. The roads are however bumpy and the dust penetrates everything. However, we saw what happens when seldomly the rain strikes and turns the land in one big red muddy swamp. Believe me, the penalty that the rentalcompany or the bill that your garage gives you, is a lot higher then the price of a jeepsafari.
If you have a fear of horses, don't ride. The outfitters ask you what kind of experience you have riding and try to gear your ride to your ability. This is obviously much easier to do if you are not in a group. If you ride in a group, they must try to keep the group together. If you're doing an overnight trip there's quite a distance to cover, so you will at least be going at a trott, more times than not. I find galloping much more comfortable as you aren't bouncing up and down as with trotting. Ouch! The Navajo wranglers will also explain to you how to make the horse turn, stop, etc. Pay attention! IF YOU GALLOP, DON'T BUNCH UP WITH OTHER HORSES AS THEY MAY KICK! Bunching up at a gallop also gives you a better chance of getting knocked off.
You might think that you have allready have seen Monument Valley before? This might be true... Many major films and TV episodes have been shot using Monument Valley sites. This particular site also is often used in automobile commercials. Following are some of the better known films shot in the Valley:
1940 - Kit Carson
1941 - Billy the Kid
1946 - My Darling Clementine
1948 - Fort Apache
1949 - She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
1956 - The Searchers
1962 - How the West Was Won
1969 - Mackenna's Gold
1974 - The Trial of Billy Jack
1975 - The Eiger Sanction
1981 - The Ledgend of the Lone Ranger
1983 - Back to the Future II
1991 - Back to the Future III
1993 - Forrest Gump
1993 - Tall Tales
1994 - Lightning Jack
1995 - Waiting to Exhale
If you do venture out anywhere around here, please make sure that you bring some water. You can never tell when you might need it.