Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Four Corners, Four Tribes, Four States

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

Have you ever stood in one place and touched 3 different states? There are a lot of chances across the US to do that, and less than a handful of states which only touch 2 other states. But how about standing in one place and touching FOUR different states? An intersection. And that place is called the Four Corners Monument.

Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings
Last summer, a friend of mine came to visit, and we traveled to the southwest corner of Colorado, Durango to be specific. As part of that weekend blitz, we went a little further southwest and took in the Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings. When I looked at a map of the area and realized we were only 30 miles from Four Corners--a place I had wanted to visit since childhood--I knew we had to go. It would mean not getting home until midnight or later at the end of our weekend, but we had to do it!

Monument in 1962
The Four Corners area is named after the point where the boundaries of four states (Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico--just think UCAN) meet, where the Four Corners Monument is located. It is the only location in the United States where four states meet. Most of the Four Corners region belongs to semi-autonomous Native American nations, the largest of which is the Navajo Nation, followed by Hopi, Ute, and Zuni tribal reserves and nations. It's mostly rural, rugged, and arid. In fact, while driving, it reminded me a lot of a desert. Not a desert like the Sahara with nothing but sand, but a mountainous desert with rock formations combined with sand.

Monument in 1992
The United States acquired the four corners region from Mexico after the end of the Mexican–American War in 1848. In 1863 Congress created Arizona Territory from the western part of New Mexico Territory. The boundary was defined as a line running due south from the southwest corner of Colorado Territory, which had been created in 1861. This was an unusual act of Congress, which almost always defined the boundaries of new territories as lines of latitude or longitude, or following rivers. By defining one boundary as starting at the corner of another, Congress ensured the eventual creation of four states meeting at a point.

Monument in 1989
When I researched photos of this monument, I was surprised to see it once sat in the middle of what seemed to be "nowhere" with nothing but open space around it. Over the past 150 years, this site has seen a lot of changes.

My feet touching 4 states
By 1899, the sandstone shaft marker placed by Chandler Robbins in 1875 had been disturbed and broken, so it was replaced with a new stone by two U.S. Surveyors, Hubert D. Page and James M. Lentz. In 1912, a simple cement pad was poured around the marker. The first modern Navajo government convened in 1923 in an effort to organize and regulate an increasing amount of oil exploration activities on Navajo lands, and they played a big role in the monument's further development.

Monument in 2013
In 1931, Everett H. Kimmell, another U.S. Surveyor, found this newer stone had broken too and he replaced it with a brass disc marker set in cement. In 1962, the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs poured an elevated cement pad around the 1931 brass marker; this pad included the state border lines and names in tile. The monument was completely rebuilt in 1992, and the 1931 brass marker was replaced with a disc shaped aluminum-bronze plate set in granite. The monument was again rebuilt in 2010, although the disc shaped plate from 1992 remained in place.

Monument showing Navajo and Ute
selling booths at the perimeter
The monument I and my friend visited with the individual stone booths where the various Navajo and Ute Indians sell their hand-made items is obviously a lot newer than I at first thought. Prior to 2010, it seems those booths and those walls weren't there at all. Completely changes the landscape and appearance. It doesn't diminish the experience of touching four states at once, though. :) And I loved being able to shop genuine Navajo items without the middle man jacking up the price. This way, I knew my money was going straight to the craftsman or designer and it was a lot of fun chatting with them.

Finally, just for fun, here's an animated GIF image showing the progression of the 4 states from territories into the states we have today.

Now it's YOUR turn:

Have you ever been to Four Corners? When did you go? If not this monument, where else in the U.S. have you visited that is designated as a national monument or a national park? And what was your favorite part about your visit? Or what is your overall favorite place to visit?

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. Today, she is an award-winning author and speaker who has partnered with Nerium International in the anti-aging industry, helping others look younger and live better. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have one girl and one boy, and an Aussie/retriever mix named Roxie. She has sold fourteen books so far and is represented by agent Sandra Bishop. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Have been to this Four Corners area too on several occasions. Once on a writing research trip with my late husband and the other on a vacation excursion with some family members. Loved the animated progress map and revisiting the memories of this unusual region.

  2. Hi Amber, yes I've been to the four corners. I have photos of each of my children spread across four states. That was awhile back--in the 80s.

  3. Hi Amber! We have been to Four Corners but it has been many years ago. Seeing your photos, we need to make a trip back.

  4. I, too, live in Colorado, but have not yet visited Four Corners. Crazy! I hope to soon. Great post, Amber.

  5. My husband and I enjoyed visiting Four Corners about 12 years ago.

  6. I've never been to Four Corners but I have been to Mount Rushmore which was awe inspiring.

  7. Thanks for a great post, Amber! When we have out-of-state company down here in Southwest Colorado, one of the places they usually want to go is Four Corners. I'm sending your post to our August visitors. They will want to add it to their list, too. Chimney Rock has recently become a national monument. It's having an interesting impact on our little valley.

  8. What a great post! We are travelling to the 4 Corners NM this August. I am obsessed with the National Parks, Monuments, Historic Sites and Lighthouses and for our vacations we travel to see them. I have a NP Passport stamp book so I collect the dated stamps and the stickers for each one we visit. We will see Mesa Verde NP on this trip as well as Great Basin NP in NV, Hovenweep NM, El Malpais NM, El Moro NM, Hubbell Trading Post, Canyons of the Ancients, and the Pony Express Historic Trail in Nevada. Great fun ahead for us. sharon wileygreen1ATyahooDOTcom