Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road . . .
-- T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land
So this is where God put the West.
-- John Wayne
Located on Navajo tribal land straddling the border between Arizona and Utah, Monument Valley has become the archetypal visual representation of the American West, thanks in large measure to the Western movies directed by John Ford.
Beginning with Stagecoach in 1939, Ford used Monument Valley in nine of his movies. You can see a trailer for Stagecoach by clicking here; a trailer for what is arguably Ford's best film, The Searchers (1956), by clicking here.
Since then, Monument Valley has been featured in dozens of movies (including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Thelma and Louise, Forrest Gump, Back to the Future III, and this summer's The Lone Ranger); TV shows; video games; music videos and album covers; and in millions of print images.
The rock walls and monoliths of Monument Valley rise hundreds of feet above the dusty desert.
They stand like crumbling battlements of giant fortresses . . . lonely sentinels awaiting an enemy that never came, breached only by the relentless assault of time and weather.
Approaching Monument Valley from the south, for miles you see nothing but empty desert and scrub.
Then stark eruptions of rock begin to appear:
Finally, you come over a hill and there in the distance is the familiar skyline:
Monument Valley lies within Navajo tribal lands, and is operated by the Navajos much like a national park.
Outside the park, there are the obligatory souvenir shops and such, scaled appropriately to the geography and the volume of traffic . . .
Inside the park, there's a hotel and visitor center . . .
And lots of tourists, on their own . . .
(hope those guys had a car for their bikes . . . )
Or being driven by commercial tour companies in pickups retrofitted with jitney seats . . .
(It gets a little crowded on the road sometimes!)
And at every "scenic overlook" stop, there are Navajos selling jewelry from tables or the back of a pickup:
But of course it's not the jewelry or souvenirs that we come for . . . it's the land and its desolate beauty:
. . . capturing it with our cameras and our imaginations . . .
from dawn . . .
to dusk . . .
If you'd like to see these images -- and more -- in larger versions, go to my website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.