Behold Bisti

Bisti/Te-Na-Zin Wilderness Area

Our trip to the Four Corners region was built around visiting two historic areas, the Bisti Badlands and Chaco Canyon. The Bisti wilderness area was amazing, and I imagine Chaco also will not disappoint. The rock formations we saw in Bisti are the most diverse and surreal since we visited the equally other-worldly Atacama Desert in northern Chile in 2013. So much so that picking a single image to open this post was difficult. Many more will come, but the following images taken by our guide show us near the same rock formation that opens this post.

Our tour was conducted by NavajoTours USA, led by Kialo Winters, who founded the business with his wife Terri. Of Navajo and Zia Pueblo ancestry, he provided a wealth of information about the rock formations and the geology of the area, but also insight into its importance to native peoples. Like many Navajo he can trace his lineage to the 1860s, when his ancestors were driven from Canyon de Chelly as part of a scorched-earth campaign led by Kit Carson. (See this link for some history: He’s also a very good photographer. Bisti is popular with photographers in general, and it’s especially popular with Night Sky photographers seeking dramatic backdrops for their images of the cosmos. Kialo often guides them to specific locations for their shoots. It’s clear he has learned a few tricks along the way. Check out some examples of pro shots on his web site or follow Navajo Tours on Instagram.

Most of this post will consist of photos because my words would be inadequate to describe how fascinating this place is. It’s interesting how off the radar it is for many Americans. We met Kialo at 7:30 in the morning at a spot between two mile markers on route 371, which runs south from Farmington and connects with I-40. It was a roughly 35 minute drive from our inn in Farmington to the meet-up spot. Starting times for tours will be at 7 am soon because the days are getting shorter. You also want to be done by midday when the sun is at its highest. It is, after all, a desert region at elevation.

The tall rock formation in the middle right is known as the Queen. Chess players will understand.

Another couple from Miami joined us on the tour. From the meeting point we followed Kialo’s car another mile or so east, where we left the cars and set out on foot. In total we walked about 5.5 miles, initially heading east into the badlands region then gradually looping back west. The following images provide some sense of the varied topography. If you become interested in visiting Bisti after viewing the following, we highly recommend Navajo Tours as your guide. And you do need a guide. Even with modern GPS this place would be very difficult for a newbie to the area to navigate on their own. We would love to be able to be out here on a clear night, the stars have to be amazing.

The tall rock formation at the rear is called the Bisti pyramid.
Here is the pyramid again from the opposite side of the first image.
Some of the terrain was flat. This was part of the last leg back to the cars.
Some of the hoodoo rock formations. Doesn’t the rock on the left look like a hawk eyeing the terrain?
Our guide took this image. Great composition.
Early morning sunlight.
Passage through the rocks.
Intrepid explorer.

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