Column: Protection for sacred site in New Mexico
"Tourists spot the volcanic plug known to Navajos as Tse' bit'a'i and to the rest of the world as Shiprock miles before they get close to the actual tower of rock.

It is a magical and mesmerizing experience to watch the rock as you approach it. From afar, it floats on the desert floor like the clipper ship it is named for. And it grows larger and its crags and crannies sharper as the miles creep by.

Just south of the town of Shiprock on the far eastern edge of the Navajo reservation, the paved highway edges up near the rock and visitors start to pull over on the side of the road to aim their cameras at the iconic rock.

There are no signs announcing the site or giving a clue which of the maze of dirt roads might lead closer to it. So most of those visitors get right back in their cars and drive on.

That is Shiprock. So close, but so forbidding.

While it seems to an outsider that the rock is unapproachable, a number of dirt roads lead past hogans and trailers and sheep and dogs right up to the rock. If you know the route and you make the bumpy, dusty trip, you can get out of your car and look straight up at the craggy peak that rises nearly 2,000 feet above you. And you can run your hands across the rock, the result of an explosive eruption 30 million years ago.

Or, if you choose, you can dump your garbage there. Or shoot at the rock or paint graffiti on it. Or find a handhold and begin to illegally climb it. Or drive your ATV up and over the low sheets of lava rock that fan out from the pinnacle."

Get the Story:
Leslie Linthicum: Will State Come to Shiprock's Rescue? (The Albuquerque Journal 10/9)

Related Stories:
New Mexico study backs state park for sacred site (09/09)