The False Kiva

I camped for the night near Marlboro point, hoping to capture images of the giant sandstone monoliths glowing in the early morning sun. My alarm rang at 5:30 AM, and I looked outside to see a completely overcast sky. Still, I donned warm clothes, gathered my gear and hiked back to the area where I’d shot sunset the night before. With a bit of luck, the clouds might part enough to light the landscape for a few minutes. The clouds had different ideas, however, standing unified to sustain the curtain between the sun and earth. I headed back to my truck for breakfast.

The overcast day—I thought—would give me a perfect opportunity to hike to an area I’d first seen in a National Geographic magazine and wanted to photograph ever since. False Kiva is located in the Island in the Sky region of Canyonlands National Park, just a few miles from Dead Horse Point State Park. The location of these ruins is not featured on the park map, and the trail leading to them is not marked. Only after extensive detective work did I manage to gain even a vague idea of how to find them. I parked my truck, hiked a couple of hundred yards and finally located the beginning of what I suspected to be the trail into the canyon where the ruin was located. It quickly became very steep, and densely populated with large, sharp edged rocks and boulders. False Kiva is in a large alcove in the side of a sheer sandstone cliff. As I climbed down into the canyon, I could see what I thought was the alcove, yet I was unable to see the ruin within. The trail descends below the alcove, then switches back and climbs steeply up through loose gravel and rock. Only when I reached the top of the trail and edge of the alcove did I finally see the False Kiva. By this time it was mid afternoon and the sun was making brief appearances through the clouds, giving me a well lit foreground and revealing the rugged features of the distant canyons. I had the site to myself and photographed it thoroughly, enjoying every minute.


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