Monument Valley is one of the most photographed landscapes on the surface of the earth! Everyone has seen cars perched on top of monuments, movies where the hero rides off into that landscape. One of the pullouts is even called John Ford's overview because he put that view of the valley into so many of his westerns. What has happened here to make this spectacular landscape?
Monument Valley lies on top of a major region of uplifted strata, the Monument upwarp, which extends for approximately 100 miles southward from the Needles region of Canyonlands in Utah. This uplifted region has been heavily eroded along its axis, exposing very old strata (Middle Pennsylvanian) in the canyons of major drainages. Where the San Juan river cuts across the Monument Upwarp the entire set of Permanian red beds are gloriously exposed, as well as several hundred feet of the older Pennsylvanian Honaker Trail and Paradox strata.
On the southern crest of this uplifted region, Monument Valley's magnificent buttes and rock fingers are composed of de Chelly sandstone, forming the vertical walls, above the soft red Organ Rock Shale from the Cutler red beds which comprise the gently sloping bases of the monuments. The formations are capped by Moenkoepi shale which is protected by remnants of the Shinarump Conglomerate, a part of the Chinle Formation.
Fly over Monument Valley and let the majestic beauty of the land unfold right before your eyes. Arial sight seeing flights provide you with a rare chance to experience Monument Valley's timeless grandeur. Travel and see the colorful vistas while learning about the Valley's history with a narrated flying tour of Monument Valley.
If, like me, you are confused by the terms used to designate geologic time, a chart, based upon one given in Roadside Geology of Arizona by H. Chronic is available.
Monument Valley, Navajo Tribal Park
Approximately a dozen photographs of Monument Valley can be found in the Special Collections and Archives Department, Cline Library, Northern Arizona University.
A short history of Monument Valley is available from the The Utah History Encyclopedia.
© 1994 Karen M. Strom
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