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Monument Valley

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mvbutte.jpg
Monument Valley's famous buttes (2)

     Monument Valley is located along the north-east Arizona and south-east Utah border.  It is approximately 5180 square kilometres large and its gigantic red sandstone buttes rise up to 1000 feet above the sandy desert floor.  Monument Valley is the result of constant geologic processes that have taken place over the past 270 million years (1).  What once started as the sandy bottom of a sea in ancient Permian times, is now the glorious landforms that characterize this beautiful desert landscape.

     The landforms that characterize Monument Valley were formed by numerous different geological processes.  Due to these different geological processes, different types of rock formed as well, such as sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic.  Over millions of years, the geological features of Monument Valley have changed dramatically.  What once began as the bottom of an ancient sea are now dramatically tall, free-standing features that rise hundreds of feet above the desert floor.  These features are known as buttes and spires.  It is within these different landforms that the layers of rock that constituted the sea-floor can be seen, such as sandstone and shale.  Due to Monument Valley's impressive landscape, it has long been the location for countless Western movies, commercials, and photographs.  Monument Valley is not only a  scenic region, it is also been the home of the Navajo people for centuries and is now encompassed within the Navajo reserve that was established by President Chester Arthur in 1884 (3).  Monument Valley is one of the most fascinating regions on earth, not only because of its rich historical and cultural history, but because of its intriguing geological history as well.

Quick Facts About Monument Valley
  • approximately 5180 square kilometres in size
  • geological features, such as buttes and spires, rise up to 1000 feet in air
  • Monument Valley has been changing since the Permian era...which ended over 160 million years ago!!!
  • the climate of Monument Valley is warm in the summers with temperatures averaging in the 30s (degree Celsius) and cold and snowy in the winter with temperatures averging below zero (degrees C)

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Monument Valley on a global map - located along the north-eastern Arizona-Utah border (4)

1. NState, Arizona: The Geography of Arizona, January 2006, <http://www.netstate.com/states/geography/az_
geography .htm> (5 January 2006).
 
2. John Crossley, The American Southwest: Utah: Monument Valley, 2005, <http://www.americansouthwest.net/utah/
monument_valley/index.html> (5 January 2006).
 
3. NState, Arizona...
 
4. United States Department of the Interior, The National Atlas of the United States of America: State Map, December 2005, http://www.nationalatlas.gov> (30 December 2005).