The Colorado River snakes through the the Grand Canyon. Captured April 22, 2017. Images ©2017 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

Monuments of the West

A satellite’s-eye view of the American West

There are 129 national monuments within the United States, protecting some of the nation’s most ecologically and historically important landscapes. President Theodore Roosevelt created the first National Monument in 1906—an ancient butte made of igneous rock now known as Devil’s Tower National Monument. Roosevelt went on to Establish sixteen additional monuments during his time in office. More recently, President Barack Obama created a total of 34 monuments during his two terms—more than any other president in history.

The American West, is home to many of these uniquely American landscapes. From space, we here at Planet get a satellite’s-eye view of these incredible monuments from over 400 kilometers above. Take a look at some of our favorites.


Bears Ears National Monument

Amongst the red rocks of southeastern Utah, Bears Ears National Monument— an enormous swath of desert full of buttes, eroded sandstone formations, steep canyons and Native American cliff dwellings—covers over 1.3 million acres.

The rocky crests of twin mesas form the “Bears Ears” (right), which tower over deep sandstone canyons to the west (left). Captured April 21, 2017. Images ©2017 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

Mojave Trails National Monument

Along historic Route 66 in dry, sunny southeastern California lies Mojave Trails National Monument. This 1.6 million-acre desert preserve in California’s interior was once underwater. Paleontologists have unearthed fossil evidence of ancient mollusks and other sea creatures dating back to the Cambrian period within Mojave Trails’ borders.

Captured April 13, 2017. Images ©2017 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

Fast forward a few hundred million years, and a lucky backpacker may find land-dwelling wildlife, like desert tortoises, kit foxes, or roadrunners.

Carrizo Plain National Monument

Some desert monuments have the power to transform. In early 2017, an unusually wet winter set the scene for a magnificent spring “superbloom” at Carrizo Plain National Monument, a sprawling desert ecosystem in Central California.

The bright yellow blooms in this imagery belong to the coreopsis plant, while the desert lavender blooms a brilliant purple. Captured on December 3, 2016 and March 31, 2017. Images ©2017 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

The purple lupines and yellow astragalus flowers visible in this imagery are expected to thrive into the late spring before hot summer weather takes over.

Sand to Snow National Monument

Just a short drive from urban Los Angeles, Mount Gorgonio, Sand to Snow National Monument’s highest peak, towers 10,000 feet above San Bernardino county and the Sonoran desert to the east.

Captured on April 21, 2017. Images ©2017 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

In this satellite image, the Whitewater river flows through Sand to Snow from its headwaters near Mount San Gorgonio southeastward towards Palm Springs, California. Trails through the river basin and up the rugged mountain are a favorite amongst the more experienced hikers and mountain bikers.

Giant Sequoia National Monument

In Giant Sequoia National Monument Sequoiadendron giganteum, or “Giant Sequoia”, mingle with Ponderosa Pines, Cedars, Black Oaks, and more.

Black Mountain Grove. Captured on December 19, 2016. Images ©2017 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

In this satellite image, snow dusts the top of Black Mountain (left), home of Black Mountain Grove—one of the largest concentrations of Giant Sequoia in California. Non-sequoias in this quiet grove were once regularly logged— but protections were put into place in 1992.

Rose Atoll National Monument

If you travel far West, so far to the West that it that it borderlines on East, you’ll reach Rose Atoll in American Samoa. This shallow, sandy reserve is a critical nesting point for migratory terns and shearwaters. Beneath the water, you’ll find an explosion of marine life including, exquisite deep water corals, white tip reef sharks, barracudas, and rare giant clams.

The Shallow sands of Rose Atoll. Captured on February 4, 2014. Images ©2017 Planet Labs, Inc. cc-by-sa 4.0.

To explore more stunning landscapes from space, visit our online image gallery.