“massive rock formation with religious significance”
Rising up from the flat, dusty, New Mexico desert, it's hard to miss the imposing and mysterious Shiprock. At over 7,000 feet tall, it's no wonder that the strange formation (actually the remains of a 27-million-year-old volcano) attracted the wonder and curiosity of humans for centuries. The rock was sacred to the Navajo people, who called it the "Tsé Bitʼaʼí", or "the rock with wings". According to legend, it's all that remains of the giant bird that carried the Navajo from the north to New Mexico. As the stories go, the original Navajos lived on the rock, only coming down from its peak to plant and water their crops. One day, when the men were off the rock, lightning struck it, leaving them no way to get back to the top, or for the women and children to come down for food and water-- and one of the reasons that it's forbidden to climb the Shiprock is that the Navajo fear that the ghosts of those stranded will be disturbed. Navajo legend also places the rock in the context of the entire landscape. Shiprock is said to be the medicine bag or bow carried by a giant, mythical, man-like being, whose body is made up of various mountain ranges and peaks. There's also another legend that says that flesh-eating Bird Monsters lived atop the Shiprock. One of the two Warrior Twins, Monstery Slayer, killed two of the Bird Monsters and turned one baby Bird Monster into an eagle, and another into an owl. The rock is even mentioned in various chants and ceremonies. Of course, the rock holds interest for more than just the Navajo people. Since the early 20th century, people have been intrigued by the idea of climbing the Shiprock-- the first ascent occurred in 1939. It's a confuddling and technically difficult climb, with various routes recorded, each more challenging than the last. It doesn't really matter anymore, though, since climbing the rock has been outlawed by the Navajo, who own it, as the rock is sacred to them. At the end of the day, adventurers who'd like to conquer the rock will have to gaze up at it from below and wonder about the ghosts, bird monsters, or other mythical beasts might be hidden at its peak.
From the highway, this formation is beautiful. Take the time from your trip to four corners to drive slowly as you pass it, in search of a small, unpaved side road with one of those yellow grates. It's one of the only holes in the fence that runs along the main road, but it still takes some looking to find. Believe me, it's worth the detour. The drive to Shiprock is probably less than a mile, but there's no road at all, not even a marked path. Be sure your car can handle serious dips, rocks, sand, and gullies.
We went in that golden hour of twilight, and when we finally got to the base of the monument it was so enormous, washed in pinks and purples, that I teared up. On the way back to the main road, my partner stood out the sunroof despite the incredibly bumpy road and watched the rock fade in the oncoming darkness. Truly incredible place.
When you first see it in the distance, you'll ask yourself "what is that!" Awesomely surprising site.
This is one awesome rock. We could see it in the distance for miles, but we passed near it on the road to Four Corners and it just got more and more beautiful and intriguing.
Beautiful part of the scenery. Swing by for a picture or two. It's not too far off the highway and there is a fry bread stand here also. They sell other food as well.
It's a beautiful site to see for the photographer. The husband wasn't too impressed. The road that road trippers leads you to is a dirt road and is not well maintained. We ended up not going up to it for that reason. But you can get some good pictures still.
We saw the formation from a far while traveling from Taos, NM to Four Corners Monument. We thought we would be able to see it and take photos of it from Four Corners, but we were wrong. If you want take photos of the formation, take the photos while in the town of Shiprock. The formation is pretty impressive.
Close to the main road, the long dike, or wall-like sheet of lava that radiates away from the monadnock was vert striking and a pleasant surprise.
It's kind of cool, never could get exact directions to the location. Nice from a distance though
While you can see this feature from miles away, the detail from up close was amazing. The terrain around this geological formation is largely flat, yet Ship Rock protrudes from the ground and towers above the landscape. We were unable to drive up to the formation but were able to get within 1/4 mile from it. Be careful not to drive through open gates near the formation as these are private property.
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