Nature and outdoors

Wild Place: Shiprock Pinnacle, New Mexico

Nearly half a kilometre tall, these stunning remains of an ancient volcanic plume are a source of local legends

For the Navajo people, the land is rich in legends. Shiprock Pinnacle, the rust-red remains of a volcanic plume formed 30 million years ago, is known to locals as Tsé Bit’a’í – ‘the rock with wings’.

One legend says it’s because the jagged 482-metre-tall rock was once a giant bird that carried the Navajo to New Mexico before turning to stone; another tells of two monstrous birds who lived on the rock and occasionally swooped down to feast on the natives.

You can glimpse the outcrop if you drive west on Highway 64 towards the Four Corners – where Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet. 

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