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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Visit the Greatest American Landscape

If you're making travel plans for the coming summer and you'd like to see the American Southwest, there is one place that should be at the top of your list: Monument Valley in southern Utah (just over the Arizona border). There is no other place in America that symbolizes the beauty and mystery of the American West like this extraordinary place. Monument Valley is actually a Navajo Tribal Park and is administered (and lived in) by the Navajo. The Navajo name for the valley is: Tse'Bii'Ndzisgaii.

Monument Valley presents some of the best landscape photo opportunities in the world and features "monuments" or rock buttes that rise up between 400 and 1000' high. By the way, the photo here was shot from the rim of the valley, near the visitor's center--and while that's a beautiful viewpoint, you have to get down into the valley to see just how spectacular it really is.There is a 17-mile self-driving tour through the valley (entry is just $5/person) and the Navajos also offer guided tours. I've spent several days there at a time and there is always something new to see, always another view to photograph. It's mind boggling, to be honest.

Interestingly, quite a number of Navajo live in the Valley and so when you're there you're not just in a park, but in their living room, so you also get a sense of the history of the Navajo people. Considering the way that Native Americans have been abused in every conceivable way in this country, it's amazing that they even let us on their land, yet they are incredibly welcoming to strangers.

There is only one hotel (now) that is close to the park and that is Goulding's Lodge (a great place to stay, you can see the valley in the distance from virtually very room), but I'm told that the Navajo are building their own hotel where the visitor center is. I really hope this doesn't commercialize the park too much since its remote location has always kept it somewhat of a secret. Just getting to the valley is a challenge, by the way, it's a four-hour drive from Flagstaff and it's 25 miles from the nearest town (Kayenta, Arizona). Still, it's a beautiful drive and worth every effort it takes to see this extraodrinary landscape.


Victoria said...

Still working my way to the present... haven't made it here yet... but my other half wants to return to Sedona for mountain-biking... so I'll just take a side-trip without him after/if I get my fill of photographing Sedona's phenomenal red rock (all previous photos are on film)... still loving your blog...

Jeff Wignall said...

Hi Victoria,

You'll love Monument Valley when you get there. It's a kind of long drive from Sedona, but very pretty--especially once you're heading east from Tuba City. The Navajos were building an inn at the edge of the Valley, last I heard, not sure if it's done yet.