Monument Valley

From Academic Kids

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East Mitten and West Mitten Buttes

Monument Valley is located on the southern border of Utah with northern Arizona. The valley lies within the range of the Navajo Nation Reservation near the town of Goulding.



The area is part of the Colorado Plateau. The floor is largely Cutler Red siltstone or its sand 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-grey rocks in the valley get their color from manganese oxide.

The buttes are clearly stratified, with three principal layers. The lowest layer is Organ Rock shale, the middle de Chelly sandstone and the top layer is Moenkopi shale capped by Shinarump siltstone.

Between 1948 and 1967, the southern extent of the Monument Upwarp was mined for uranium ore, which occurs in scattered areas of the Shinarump siltstone.

Iconic imagery

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The Totem Pole

The twin buttes of the valley ("the Mittens") have developed iconic status. They have appeared as a backdrop in many Hollywood movies, especially westerns. But it was John Ford's 1938 film Stagecoach starring John Wayne that has had the most enduring influence in making the valley famous. Ford returned to the valley often to shoot western films. A popular lookout point is named in his honor as "John Ford Point"

The implied association with John Wayne's tough macho character made the buttes a natural choice as the background for Marlboro Man in the marketing of Marlboro brand cigarettes from the 1950s.

Other notable natural features include the Totem Pole (although the Navajo did not actually build totem poles) and the Ear of the Wind arch.


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An aerial view of the valley with major buttes and mesas labelled

While state highways traverse the valley, the most scenic locations are within Monument Valley Tribal Park, a Navajo Nation equivalent to a national park. Because of the remote location, many tourists fly into the valley from Grand Canyon or Lake Powell as part of a larger tour to an airstrip at Gouldings Trading Post. Guided tours in an open bus are available, or visitors can pay a small access fee and drive through the park via dirt roads. A visitor center and small convenience/souvenir shop stands on a hill just west of the Mittens.

Hollywood director John Ford filmed nine motion pictures in Monument Valley.

External links

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