Day 33 – Valley Of The Sandstone Monoliths

Friday, September 24, 2010
Miles To Date: 
4 935

The main destination today was Monument Valley, which is around 150 miles south of Moab, on the Utah/Arizona border. We left early, so as to get as much time in the valley as possible.

The drive took us past landscapes which are now becoming very familiar – canyons, mountains and sandstone in many eroded forms. As we got close to Monument Valley we could see it in the distance and it stood out quite significantly from anything else around. To reach the area with the buttes (the technical name for the monuments), we had to drive 4 miles off the main road, and into an area run by the Navajo Indian tribe. Here there was a hotel, restaurant and visitor centre.

In the visitor centre, the exhibit focussed on the tribe. This was interesting, and we learnt how many of the natives still live in traditional housing, but with all their modern appliances inside. There was also information on how the tribe contributed during World War 2. The language they speak was unknown to the Japanese and the Germans, so they proved to be valuable in sending secret communications known as the ‘Navajo Code’ across front lines. It would have been nice to see an additional exhibit about how the area was formed, like those found in parks run by the government. All we got was a short paragraph on the map we were given upon entry.

As for the monuments, they are an incredible sight, and are spread out across a large area in the desert. Each is made from eroded sandstone, and stands independently of anything else. There is a dirt road which takes a 17 mile loop around the monuments, but it wasn’t recommended for low-clearance vehicles, and we even saw some 4x4s struggling. It gives us good reason to come back though! Despite missing out on the drive, we still got some great photos from up near the visitor centre.

After leaving the valley we headed to our hotel in Tuba City, Arizona (not named after the instrument, but a native who converted to Mormon). The town appears to have a native majority population so we felt like we stood out quite a bit when we went for dinner! Tomorrow we are heading back up into Utah to visit Bryce Canyon national park.

Photo(s) of the day: a 9 image composite of one of the buttes (the original is 84 megapixels so I had to reduce it! – click to enlarge), and us at the visitor centre overlook.