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Going to the NRHS 2016 Denver Convention Day 2 Part 2 7/2/2016

by Chris Guenzler

After leaving Holbrook and seeing an edge of the Painted Desert, I asked Robin if he had ever been to it. He replied "No!" and as I had not been to it since I was a kid, we decided to go. We pulled up and the lady asked if either of us was over 62 years of age. Robin said he was and for a $10 fee, he bought a lifetime pass good at any National Park or monument. We drove to the first overlook of the Painted Desert.

Painted Desert of Petrified Forest National Park

The Painted Desert is a United States desert of badlands in the Four Corners area running from near the east end of the Grand Canyon National Park southeast into the Petrified Forest National Park. It is most easily accessed in the north portion of The Petrified Forest National Park. The Painted Desert is known for its brilliant and varied colors, that not only include the more common red rock, but even shades of lavender.

The Painted Desert was named by an expedition under Francisco Vazquez de Coronado on his 1540 quest to ind the Seven Cities of Cibola, which he located some forty miles east of The Petrified Forest National Park. Finding the cities were not made of gold, Coronado sent an expedition to find the Colorado River to resupply him. Passing through the wonderland of colors, they named the area "El Desierto Pintado" - The Painted Desert.

Much of the Painted Desert within the Petrified Forest National Park is protected as the Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area where motorized travel is limited. But the park offers both easy and longer hikes into the colored hills. The Painted Desert continues north into the Navajo Nation where off-road travel is by permit.


The desert is composed of stratified layers of easily erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale of the Triassic Chinle Formation. These fine grained rock layers contain abundant iron and manganese compounds which provide the pigments for the various colors of the region. Thin resistant lacustrine limestone layers and volcanic flows cap the mesas. Numerous layers of silicic volcanic ash occur in the Chinle and provide the silica for the petrified logs of the area. The erosion of these layers has resulted in the formation of the badlands topography of the region.

In the southern portions of the desert the remains of a Triassic period coniferous forest have fossilized over millions of years. Wind, water and soil erosion continue to change the face of the landscape by shifting sediment and exposing layers of the Chinle Formation. An assortment of fossilized prehistoric plants and animals are found in the region, as well as dinosaur tracks and the evidence of early human habitation.

Area and climate

The Painted Desert extends roughly from Cameron-Tuba City southeast to past Holbrook and the Petrified Forest National Park. The desert is about 120 miles long by about 60 miles wide, making it roughly 7,500 square miles in area. Bordering southwest and south is the Mogollon Plateau, and on the plateau's south border the Mogollon Rim, the north border of the Arizona transition zone.

Owing to the strong rain shadow of the Mogollon Rim, the Painted Desert has a cold desert climate (Koppen BWk), with hot, dry summers and cold, though virtually snow-free winters. The annual precipitation is the lowest in northern Arizona and in many places is lower even than Phoenix.

Views from the Tiponi Point.

Views from the Tawa Point.

Views from the Kachani Point.

Views from the Chinde Point.

Views from the Pintado Point.

Views from the Nizhoni Point.

Views from the Whipple Point.

The views from the Lacey Point. We left the park and headed straight to Gallup and Babe Ruth Park.

Here is a mining display.


Defiance Coal 0-4-0T 2

The display train and switch stand. Before leaving Gallup we stopped at MacDonald's for a late lunch. We then headed for Farmington.

There are many interesting geological features along our route today.

Ford Butte.

Bennet Peak.

Table Rock.

First view of Shiprock.

Barber Peak.

The Catheral.


Shiprock (Navajo: Tse Bit'a i "rock with wings" or "winged rock") is a monadnock rising nearly 1,583 feet above the high-desert plain of the Navajo Nation in San Juan County, New Mexico, United States. Its peak elevation is 7,177 feet above sea level. It lies about 10.75 miles southwest of the town of Shiprock, which is named for the peak.

Governed by the Navajo Nation, the formation is in the Four Corners region and plays a significant role in Navajo religion, mythology and tradition. It is located in the center of the Ancient Pueblo People, a prehistoric Native American culture of the Southwest United States often referred to as the Anasazi. Shiprock is a point of interest for rock climbers and photographers and has been featured in several film productions and novels. It is the most prominent landmark in northwestern New Mexico.

The Navajo name for the peak, c"rock with wings" or "winged rock", refers to the legend of the great bird that brought the Navajo from the north to their present lands. The name "Shiprock" or Shiprock Peak or Ship Rock derives from the peak's resemblance to an enormous 19th-century clipper ship. Anglos first called the peak "The Needle", a name given to the topmost pinnacle by Captain J. F. McComb in 1860. United States Geological Survey maps indicate that the name "Ship Rock" dates from the 1870s.

Shiprock is composed of fractured volcanic breccia and black dikes of igneous rock called minette. It is the erosional remnant of the throat of a volcano, and the volcanic breccia formed in a diatreme. The exposed rock probably was originally formed 2,500-3000 feet below the Earth's surface, but it was exposed after millions of years of erosion. Wall-like sheets of minette, known as dikes, radiate away from the central formation. Radiometric age determinations of the minette establish that these volcanic rocks solidified about 27 million years ago. Shiprock is in the northeastern part of the Navajo Volcanic Field-a field that includes intrusions and flows of minette and other unusual igneous rocks that formed about 25 million years ago. Agathla (El Capitan) in Monument Valley, is another prominent volcanic neck in this volcanic field.

Shiprock and the surrounding land have religious and historical significance to the Navajo people. It is mentioned in many of their myths and legends. Foremost is the peak's role as the agent that brought the Navajo to the southwest. According to one legend, after being transported from another place, the Navajos lived on the monolith, "coming down only to plant their fields and get water." One day, the peak was struck by lightning, obliterating the trail and leaving only a sheer cliff, and stranding the women and children on top to starve. The presence of people on the peak is forbidden "for fear they might stir up the chi'idii (ghosts), or rob their corpses.

Navajo legend puts the peak in a larger geographic context, Shiprock is said to be either a medicine pouch or a bow carried by the "Goods of Value Mountain", a large mythic male figure comprising several mountain features throughout the region. The Chuska Mountains comprise the body, Chuska Peak is the head, the Carrizo Mountains are the legs, and Beautiful Mountain is the feet.

Navajo legend has it that Bird Monsters (Tse Ninajaleeh) nested on the peak and fed on human flesh. After Monster Slayer, elder of the Warrior Twins, destroyed Deeleed at Red Mesa, he killed two adult Bird Monsters at Shiprock and changed two young ones into an eagle and an owl. The peak is mentioned in stories from the Enemy Side Ceremony and the Navajo Mountain Chant, and is associated with the Bead Chant and the Naayee'ee Ceremony.

Shiprock. We drove to the town of the same name then turned east to Farmington where we gassed up the car and checked in to the Rodeway Inn for the night.