A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Moki Dugway’

Mexican Hat, Utah

Posted by graywacke on October 5, 2009

First timer? In this (hopefully) once-a-day blog, I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Dan –  This ugly stretch of OSers is continuing (up to 0/5) with today’s landing in . . . UT; 62/50; 4/10; 1; 152.6.  Note that after 12 in a row with 5/10+, I’m now at 4/10.  We’ll see how long this negative string goes.

Anyway, here’s my landing map:


Wow, for the third time recently, I’ve landed in a total wilderness area.  As my loyal readers will recall, I recently landed in the Tonto National Forest in AZ, and then, few landings later, I landed in Glacier National Park.  Today, I landed in the absolutely breathtaking canyonlands of SE UT.   As you can see on my landing map, there are no roads anyplace close.  What is close is the San Juan River.  From my general geography/geology knowledge, I know that the San Juan has a wonderful canyon associated with it.

So, I went to Google Earth, and very accurately located my landing.  Check out where I landed!!!!!!

Google earth landing

I zoomed back a little . . .

google earth landing2

And zoomed back a little more. . . .

google earth landing3

Google Earth is truly amazing.  It really looks like the view is from an airplane.  Notice the little blue square right next to my landing?  That’s a photo posted on Google Earth.  With great anticipation, I clicked on it, since I knew I was going to have a view very local to my landing.  Here it is:

mouth of gulch where it meets the san juan

I’m blown away by my ability to take such an intimate look at my landing.  By the way, if you look back at my landing map, you can see that the above photo is of “Grand Gulch.”

I guess I should take care of a little watershed business . . . this was my 15th landing in the San Juan watershed, on to the Colorado (145th hit).

Anyway, here’s a somewhat broader view, showing my proximity to Mexican Hat:


Hmmmm.  See that funky part of Rt 261 north of Mexican Hat?  I need to zoom in on that!  Wow.  Take a look at this stretch of the road!

switch back road

So, I Googled “Rt 261 Utah switchbacks” and I found that this stretch of road traverses what is known as the Moki (or Mokee) Dugway.  Here’s a picture, with the caption below:


The Moki Dugway is part of Highway 261 about 24 miles south of Natural Bridges National Monument. The Moki Dugway gets its name from the carved hand- and foot-holds on cliff faces throughout the region created by the ancient Native Americans. Worn step-like paths can be found leading up cliffs to food storage areas, dwellings, springs, or up steep escarpments like the one shown here. This view shows switchbacks and the modern highway cuts along Utah Highway 261 where the highway crosses the southern escarpment of Cedar Mesa.

Here’s a sign before the road takes the plunge:

moki dugway

So, I guess I need to check out Mexican Hat.  From AmericanSouthwest.com:

After passing the eroded mesas of Monument Valley, highway US 163 crosses 20 miles of rather flat landscape past scattered Navajo houses to Mexican Hat, a small settlement named after a curious formation nearby consisting of a large flat rock 60 feet in diameter perched precariously on a much smaller base at the top of a small hill. The village itself is small, home to fewer than 100 people and offering few facilities, but the surrounding scenery is exceptional and not often visited, featuring 1,200 foot sandstone cliffs at the edge of Cedar Mesa, deep, layered canyons of the San Juan River, vast sandy desert plains, and a wide valley studded with isolated red rock buttes and mesas.

The three main sites of interest near Mexican Hat are the overlook at Muley Point, the entrenched river meanders at Goosenecks State Park and the red sandstone formations of Valley of the Gods.

So check out this picture of the Mexican Hat (before we check out the three main points of interest):

53 Mexican Hat, Utah

And this, of the San Juan River in Gooseneck State Park.


I remember studying this formation in geology class.  What happened is this:  ages ago, the San Juan was close to sea level, and was meandering its way along, as rivers do on floodplains close to sea level.  And then the Colorado Plateau began to uplift.  The meandering river was lifted in place, and the meanders cut down into the rock below.

I saw “Valley of the Gods Road” on my Moki Dugway map (you can too – see map above).  Here’s a supposed picture of sunrise at the Valley of the Gods (I say “supposed” because this picture looks doctored . . )”

sunrise at the valley of the gods

Muley Point is the other attraction near Mexican Hat.  Here’s the view from the Point:

Muley Point

This has been one inspirational landing.  I’ll close with a sunset shot also from Muley Point:

Muley Point Sunset

That’ll do it.



© 2009 A Landing A Day


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