Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend at sunrise

Horseshoe Bend is one of those locations that I’ve always wished I could visit, but never have been close enough to warrant the extra miles during a trip. That changed this past fall when my friend, Tom, and I began to plan out a trip to Zion National Park and the Wave. As it turned out, we would stay in Page, Arizona for two nights as out base of operations for the hike to the Wave. When I looked to see what was nearby that we could shoot, Horseshoe Bend was two miles from our hotel! Naturally, I quickly dropped a pin in Google Maps on that location as a possible place to visit during our journey.

Interestingly, we would have driven directly by this spot if there hadn’t been a significant detour in our trip. We decided to take the southerly route from Zion to Page. In doing so we would drive past Lee’s Ferry, the put-in point for rafts heading down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. What I didn’t realize is that we would also drive past the entrance road to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. As we passed there was a couple of inches of snow on the ground and the road would shut down in the next week or so. I had visions of snow on the rim of the Grand Canyon in my head. It would only be a detour of a few hours… But, that would have put us in Page very late and we had to get up pretty early for the hike to the Wave the next day. Maybe next time…

As it turned out it was a wise decision to bypass that side trip. When we were about thirty minutes out of Page, a significant obstacle emerged. There had been a landslide on US 89 and the road was shut down for an indefinite period. So, that meant a detour. And, if you’ve traveled in that part of the country you know that roads are few and far between. Based on previous experience that meant as much as a three or four-hour drive lay in front of us. But, the Arizona highway department was a step or two ahead of us. They had transformed a gravel ranch road to a beautiful paved road only twenty or thirty miles out of our way. We arrive late, but we certainly would have arrived much later if we had taken the Grand Canyon side trip.

So, back to the Horseshoe Bend image. On the morning of our hike to the Wave, we got up a bit early in order to make the short hike down to Horseshoe Bend. In case it isn’t obvious, the bend is named for a section of the Colorado River that passes through in this location. It’s not the only place where you can see a complete bend of the Colorado, but it’s the easiest one of the easiest places to access it. Another bend that’s visible but not quite as completely is in Dead Horse Point State Park near Moab, Utah.

I had hoped for a cloud-filled sky with dramatic sunrise light illuminating the clouds over Horseshoe Bend. This is the desert, though. Blue skies prevailed and I had to make do with those conditions. Because of the extreme contrast, I used a seven shot sequence separated by one stop each. I used Photomatix Pro to blend those all together creating a realistic looking image. I especially like the glow of the canyon walls visible in the reflection in the Colorado. If you look closely, you can see some rafts tied up on a sandy beach where rafters have camped overnight. It must be incredible to be on a relatively small, fragile raft looking up at the canyon walls above. It’s certainly incredible looking down to where they were. Enjoy.

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