Cornered Again

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Durango, CO to Kayenta, AZ

Traveling from Durango west to northern Arizona on US-160 today took us into the Navajo Nation as we crossed the Four Corners intersection.  Occupying parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, the Navajo Nation is a semi-autonomous Native American-governed territory covering some 27,000 square miles (slightly bigger than West Virginia).  The Four Corners monument (pictured above) is located on Navajo land and operated by the tribe.

Since our last visit to this quadripoint shared by four states in 1995, the Navajo have made many improvements.  Formerly a simple cement pad surrounding a geographic survey marker, the monument now includes an impressive plaza surrounded by kiosks where native artisans sell souvenirs and food during the busy summer season.  Today only a few vendors were present, and the final stage of work on new restroom facilities was underway.  After walking around in Utah and enjoying our picnic lunch in New Mexico, we continued into Arizona on US-160, which took us all the way into Kayenta, our destination for tonight.

As we drove through the Four Corners area today, we learned a new term—diatreme.  In fact, we saw numerous examples of diatremes today.  Though a geologist would define it very differently, in simple terms, a diatreme is a rock-filled volcanic vent that, over millions of years, breaches the earth's surface as the terrain around it erodes.  Though Monument Valley is undoubtedly the best known collection of diatremes in the Navajo Volcanic Field, many others pop into view for those driving in this area.

Usually these formations are given names based on their shape.  Sometimes the appellation becomes formalized, like Shiprock in New Mexico, but often the designation remains a colloquial nickname.  Chimney Rock and Shiprock seem to be popular designations for obvious reasons.  South of Cortez, CO, we drove out Mancos Canyon Road on a Ute Reservation to check out this particular Chimney Rock.  A New Mexico family was visiting, and the grandmother was familiar with the spot.  On site was a former visitor center, which operated in the 1970s for those who wanted to see this diatreme.

As we neared Kayenta, we paused to look at Church Rock across a field.  Behind the rock in the distance is Agathla Peak, another eroded volcanic plug which rises more than 1,500 feet.  After this rocky day, we were glad to find shelter in Kayenta for the night.  Tomorrow we plan to revisit Monument Valley before continuing west to Page, Arizona.

Where four states meet
Chimney Rock near Towaoc, CO
Church Rock
CO-124 north of Mancos, where we searched for letterboxes this morning