Monument Valley

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Monument Valley is perhaps the most famous example of the classic American West landscape, located within the Navajo Nation on the border of Arizona and Utah. The valley has been the backdrop for numerous western movies, ranging from the films of John Wayne to Back to the Future 3 and Forrest Gump.

Monument Valley, USA
Monument Valley, USA

Monument Valley has been featured in many forms of media since the 1930s. Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, "its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West."

Monument Valley, USA

The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The elevation of the valley floor ranges from 5,000 to 6,000 feet (1,500 to 1,800 m) above sea level. The floor is largely siltstone of the Cutler Group, or sand derived from it, deposited by the meandering rivers that carved the valley. The valley's vivid red color comes from iron oxide exposed in the weathered siltstone. The darker, blue-gray rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide.

Monument Valley, USA
Monument Valley, USA

The buttes are clearly stratified, with three principal layers. The lowest layer is the Organ Rock Shale, the middle is de Chelly Sandstone, and the top layer is the Moenkopi Formation capped by Shinarump Conglomerate. The valley includes large stone structures including the famed "Eye of the Sun".

Monument Valley, USA
Monument Valley, USA

Monument Valley is officially a large area that includes much of the area surrounding Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, a Navajo Nation equivalent to a national park. Oljato, for example, is also within the area designated as Monument Valley.

Monument Valley, USA
Monument Valley, USA

Visitors may pay an access fee and drive through the park on a 17-mile (27 km) dirt road (a 2-3 hour trip). Parts of Monument Valley are accessible only by guided tour, such as Mystery Valley and Hunts Mesa.

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