Shiprock formation, New Mexico

Encyclopedia Article


A volcanic rock formation located in San Juan County, New Mexico, on the Navajo Nation Reservation. The actual rock is approximately 10 miles southwest of the town that was named after it, Shiprock. This formation, known to the Navajo as tse bida’hi, meaning “winged rock,” is approximately 1,400 feet in height. The English name “Ship Rock” was coined by Captain J.F. McComb from the U.S. Geologic Survey in 1860 due to its resemblance to a 19th century clipper ship.

In Navajo mythology, this dramatic rock formation is the home of Rock Monster Eagle (Tsé nináhálééh). In some stories, the Rock Monster Eagle swooped down to carry people to the precipice of the formation in order to feed his nestlings. As the tale goes, Monster Slayer killed the Rock Monster Eagle and transformed his children into the ancestors of the golden eagle and the owl.

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"Shiprock" by U.S. Geological Survey is licensed under CC BY.

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