Monument Valley, an Unusual Loss of Words

Danish Tourists It is hard, I think, to add any meaningful dialogue to something so part of the American psyche as Monument Valley.

It is equal parts meta-Americana, pre-Americana, post-Americana and non-Americana. (Technically, it is not America. It belongs to the Navajo Nation.) It is one of the sights you can gaze at for days and still not appreciate thoroughly. Tourists from all over the world come to the sandstone deck by the Haske Neiniih restaurant and lose themselves to the view.

Like I said, I don't have the linguistic capacity to really bring this place to life, so let me give you a brief introduction then let the pictures speak for themselves. American Tourists

Called Tse Bii Ndzisgaii in Navajo, the tribal park sits at over 5,500 feet and stretches across the Utah-Arizona state line for almost 100,000 acres. The monolithic sandstone buttes reach 400 to 1,000 feet above the valley floor and have served as backdrop to countless movies, posters and commercials. The area, millions of years ago, was the recipient of eroded materials from the Rocky Mountains that eventually cemented into layers and a plateau. Erosional forces peeled away strata to leave landmarks such as the Mittens and Merrick buttes, Elephant Butte, the Three Sisters, John Ford's Point, Camel Butte, The Hub, Totem Pole and The Thumb.

Monument ValleyThe park was established in 1958 by the Navajo Tribal Council and annually sees over 400,000 tourists from every corner of the world. Sunset and sunrise are probably the best times to see the landmarks; the tourist brochure has a sunrise-sunset table. Due to its elevation, the park is not as hot as it might look; snow falls in winter and average winter nighttime temperatures are in the 20s, while in summer the average high temperature is right around 90.

There is a restaurant, ranger station, campground, general store and gift shop. Nearby are hotels, gas stations and restaurants, though out of the area it is quite desolate and isolated. There are guided horseback and jeep trips in the valley, or you can take your car; the loop drive is 17 miles and takes at least two hours. The park, which has a $5/person entrance fee, closes just after dark. Between the highway and the park gates there are tons of booths where Navajos sell crafts.A special thanks to Bluff's Recapture Lodge.

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