According to geology, Shiprock is a 12 million year old volcanic plug. The 1700-foot high edifice is sacred to the Navajos; they all it "Tse Bi dahi," the Rock with Wings. The Navajo folk myth explains that Shiprock was once a giant bird that transported ancestral Navajos to their present home in New Mexico.
Anglos first named the peak "The Needle." United States Geological Survey maps show the name "Ship Rock" dates from the 1870s. The name most Anglos use now, "Shiprock," comes from the peak's resemblance to a 19th-century clipper ship.