This beautiful formation is the Pueblo Colorado Wash just south of Arrowhead Butte located on the First Nations Navajo (Diné) Reservation northeast of Winslow, Arizona. The Navajo prefer to be called the “Diné” meaning “The People” or “Children of the Holy People”. The home of the First Nations Navajo Tribes has always been considered one of the most arid and barren portions of the Great American Desert. The average rainfall in this region is from ten to fourteen inches, and is usually confined to two short seasons.
The Pueblo Colorado Wash is an alluvial aquifer, located in northeastern Arizona on the Navajo Nation Reservation just south of the Hopi Reservation. This important wash is about 20 km long and 2-5 km wide and formed by infilling a canyon as deep as 70 m in Mesozoic and Tertiary sedimentary rocks. Alluvial aquifers are generally shallow sand and gravel deposits laid down over time in a river channel or floodplain. The name “alluvial” refers to the loose, un-layered nature of the material – often silt, clay, sand, and gravel which are deposited by running water in and around rivers.
The Pueblo Colorado Wash aquifer is the main source of drinking water for many First Nations Navajo communities and is an integral feature of the cultural landscape. Just south of where this image shows, the Pueblo Colorado Wash merges with the Bidahochi Wash and flows south to join with the Blairs Spring Wash and the Cottonwood Wash to eventually empty into the Little Colorado River.
The butte shown in the middle of this photo is 1,912 feet high (582 m) and has no particular name. It sits about a half mile north of the formation known as Five Buttes. A butte is an isolated hill with steep, often vertical sides and a small, relatively flat top; buttes are smaller than mesas, plateaus, and table landforms. The word “butte” comes from a French word meaning “small hill” and buttes usually have a surface area of less than 10,000 square feet.
The beautiful purple colors around the butte are remnants of fluvial deposits left behind by ancient seas and rivers. Most of those deposits are sandstone, which can come in many colors, depending on their age, erosion and the climate at the time in which they were laid down. These colors appear through the ongoing process of erosion which is why you will see stratified layers of color along the same height throughout the area. The vibrant golden colors of the desert and brush along the Pueblo Colorado Wash are a result of the unique atmospheric optics in effect early in the evening when I took this image. This photograph was taken as I was flying southwest bound