Probably the best known and most famous motifs of the western part of the US are the huge rocks in Monument Valley. The isolated red chalkboard and remnants, surrounded by an empty, sandy desert, have been filmed and photographed countless times for movies, brochures, and commercials.
Even at first glance, this panorama is familiar. The bright and strong colors – as you already know from the many pictures – actually correspond to reality. Monument Valley is not a ‘valley’ in the true sense of the word, but rather a vast, desert-like land area interrupted by towering, huge stones rising hundreds of feet into the air. They are remnants of those sandstone layers that once covered the whole region.
Monument Valley is a sacred site for the Navajo Nation and is located in the northern part of the large reserve in the Four Corners Area (incidentally the only point in the US where four states – Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico – meet). Monument Valley has not changed its appearance for many millennia. Some of the most famous formations are the Mittens, two eroded elevations with thumb-like towers. Other monoliths and towers have been named, such as ‘Castle Butte’, ‘Sitting Hen’ and ‘Three Sisters’, which are said to resemble three Catholic nuns in traditional costumes. North Window offers the most dramatic and photogenic panoramas. Before Monument Valley was discovered by Hollywood in the 1940s, and before tourism became a profitable business, the area was completely deserted and abandoned. At John Ford’s Point, Najavo families often sell silver and turquoise jewelery.
The region is completely located in the Navajo Indian Reservation on the border between Utah and Arizona. Founded in 1923 as a trading post, Goulding has the most important service facilities for travelers and visitors.
Behind the village, a paved side road leads northwest to Oljato Mesa, a place that is rarely visited by tourists. From here there is a great panoramic view of the valley.
The stone-built, two-story trading post at Goulding’s Lodge is now a historic museum. It was founded in 1923 by Harry Goulding, a state sheep inspector, and his wife Leone during their settlement in Utah. When Harry heard in 1938 that director John Ford wanted to shoot a new western, he and his wife traveled to Hollywood to suggest to the studio bosses to shoot the next movie in Monument Valley. His goal was to bring new jobs to the impoverished region. The project was successful and the region became the main venue for Ford’s films. The building itself was later even occupied by John Wayne in the Western “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” (1949). Today Goulding’s Lodge offers tours with Navajo guides.
Monument Valley information
Location and size:
Monument Valley is a plain on the Colorado Plateau on the southern boundary of the US state of Utah to Arizona. Located in the Four Corners region, on the border between Arizona and Utah, it lies west of the state borders with Colorado and New Mexico at an altitude of almost 1,900 m.
The territory of the Navajo Nation covers almost 69,000 km² and thus the entire northeastern district of the state of Arizona as well as parts of New Mexico and Utah. Huge areas of untouched wilderness, majestic canyons, mountain meadows, arid deserts, plains and blue skies shape the land of the Navajo people. Monument Valley extends over a small part of the Navajo Reserve.