The steppe landscape of the prairie offers a wide view of distant mountain panoramas. The stormy weather drives the clouds over the sky in large shreds and provides an impressive play of light and color. It is a feast for the eyes and the scenery seems almost surreal.
The “Very Large Array” (VLA) is an observatory consisting of 27 radio telescopes with a diameter of 25 meters each. The system is installed on a Y-shaped rail system of 21 km length each and can be positioned on it in different configurations. It was built in the 1970s and, following extensive modernization, has been state-of-the-art since 2012.
We drove there and back twice, as a snowstorm had just set in on our arrival on the first day, making photography impossible. We decided to try again the next day. After all, these detours from our main route meant two trips of 160 km back and forth.
On the second day it was still stormy and bitterly cold, but I was able to take some nice photos in quite dramatic light conditions. The cows are omnipresent there – after all we are in cowboy country.
The Chihuahua Desert is the largest of the North American deserts and is located in the border area between the USA and Mexico. White Sands is part of it and is located in the south of the US state of New Mexico. It is indeed white and the largest gypsum desert in the world. When we were there, there was a strong storm that made it difficult to stay and photograph outside. The sand flew into my eyes and prevented a clear view. Fortunately, the camera survived this mission undamaged.
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.