In the Sonora Desert, the characteristic column cacti determine the landscape. These cacti, also known as Saguaro, grow very slowly and only thrive in frost-free altitudes. At the age of 10 years they are only about 4 cm high. The first flowers appear after about 40 years and 2.5 m height, the first branches at the age of about 65 years and about 6 m height. They reach heights of about 12 to 15 m and above and are then over 200 years old.
The impact of a meteorite about 50,000 years ago caused this crater. It has a diameter of about 1,200 m and a depth of 180 m. It is surrounded by a wall that rises about 30 to 60 m above the plateau. The meteorite consisted mainly of iron, had a diameter of 45 m and weighed 300,000 tons.
In 1871 the crater was discovered by European settlers and geologically investigated shortly before the turn of the century. It was first thought to be an impact crater, but no traces of iron could be found inside, so that it was assumed to be a form of volcanism. At the beginning of the 20th century, Daniel Barringer, who did business in mining, learned about the theory of a meteorite impact. Hoping to find large amounts of iron and nickel there, he secured a claim on the crater, but found no metals either. In 1960, further research showed that the crater was indeed formed by a meteorite impact, but that the meteorite itself was almost completely evaporated.
The crater is still privately owned and marketed as a tourist attraction.
View from the crater rim to the northwest over the San Francisco Volcanic Field. This is a field with more than 600 volcanoes. The cause is assumed to be a hotspot over which the North American plate moves westwards. The most recent eruptions were only 800 years ago. On the left is the stratovolcano “San Francisco Mountain”, whose highest peak “Humphreys Peak” is 3,850 m high and the highest point of Arizona.
The name couldn’t be more fitting. Like a ship on the horizon, this rock formation sails over the waving steppe landscape of the prairie. This remainder of an eroded volcanic vent rises 483 meters above the surrounding plain. For the Navajo the “winged rock” is of great religious and cultural importance.
The “Painted Desert” lies at about 1,800 meters above sea level on the Colorado Plateau and stretches in an arc over about 250 kilometers. It consists of a variety of colored sediment layers, which are exposed by erosion. As if drawn by a ruler, the color stripes run through the various rock formations.
“The Tepees” remind in their form of the tents of the prairie Indians. They show very clearly the different layers of rock.
The “Blue Mesa” consists of rounded hills which are predominantly blue-gray and white.
The “Petrified Forest” is an extensive area with sites of silicified wood. In some areas the landscape is covered with broken tree trunks. As this wood was very popular for jewelry and was exploited, some sites were placed under protection in 1906. In the meantime, this protected area has become a national park whose area has been extended several times.
Mesa Verde is a national park located on a densely forested and rugged table mountain in Colorado. The mountain rises to more than 600 m above the surrounding countryside and reaches altitudes of about 2,600 m. This area was inhabited long before the Europeans discovered America and is particularly known for the settlements built into steep cliffs known as “Pueblos”. Since 1978, the National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
These dwellings were built around 1200 AD. However, they were only used for about 100 years and were already abandoned around 1300 AD. The reasons for this are unclear. Possibly an increasing drought could have been the cause.
About 40 km northeast of Monument Valley lies the Valley of the Gods. In contrast to the Monument Valley, it is hardly touristically developed and instead of a visitor center, there is only a notice board that explains that on the approximately 27 km long, unpaved road through the valley, one is largely on one’s own and that four-wheel drive is recommended.
After a short time you realize that you have left civilization behind you. Not a soul far and wide and absolute silence that is only occasionally interrupted by the chirping of a lonely bird.
On our one-week tour across the Four-Corners region, in which the four states Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico border each other, we (my wife and I) reach Monument Valley at about 1,900 m above sea level. It is located on the border between Arizona and Utah and looks breathtaking and as not of this world. No wonder it has served as a backdrop for many film and television productions.
These striking rock formations, which are called “Butte” in English, are known from several wild west films. One almost expects John Wayne to come around the corner on horseback. Fascinating is the endless expanse and desolation of the desert landscape shimmering in the heat.
This breathtaking view of Monument Valley shows the beauty and dimensions of this spectacular desert. In the film “Forrest Gump,” it served as the backdrop for the end of his three-year run across the United States.
The way to the northern edge of the Grand Canyon leads over the Kaibab Plateau, which towers like an island over the desert-like Colorado Plateau. Green and wooded, it reaches a height of about 2,800 meters and is thus almost as high as Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze.
This photo was taken from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon towards the South Rim. The green Colorado River, which formed this magnificent gorge, can be seen at the right edge in the middle of the picture. The northern edge is about 300 m higher than the southern edge, cooler and in contrast to the south green and wooded.
In the southwest of the USA, a regional monsoon can occur between July and September. Heavy cloudbursts and thunderstorms are the consequence and in the otherwise very dry desert areas a large part of the annual precipitation falls in this time.