Updated September, 2000
During the 80 miles drive from Kanab to Bryce Canyon we were a little fearful the weather would be too stormy, but as it turned out to be excellent. Again Deb and I really had a photo hey-day at Bryce Canyon.
After entering the park at the north end we drove 18 miles to Rainbow Point at the southern end of the road. The vista point there was at an elevation over 9,000 feet. It was still cloudy and stormy and cool, but we had lunch in a wooded area with several chipmunks eagerly awaiting the droppings we might leave behind.
There were still lots of clouds when we started taking pictures. They added some to the scenery, but they were a little heavy and for a time threatened to drop rain on us. They established a different mood for the canyon.
The vista point at the south end has a large pine grove and many small bushes. Some of these were still in the midst of their spring bloom. This looks like manzanita, but I believe it was something else. Alice is supposed to be the wealth of knowledge on such matters but she wasn't much help in this case.
The clouds started thinning and the colors started coming out in the canyon walls. In the distance to the north we could see the escarpments making up the edge of Bryce Canyon. There was lots of photo opportunities to be checked.
Bryce Canyon runs roughly north and south. You basically travel along its rim from one end to the other, looking down into the canyon over the eroded spires of sandstone and some shales. Those spires are called hoodoos.
There are some trails you can take down into the canyon. Most of them can be done in a day, some in a couple of hours. The elevation is between 7,500 and 9,000 feet, so don't expect to run up and down the slopes.
There were many vista points along the road to the north. We stopped at every one available including some that were not true observation points, simply wide places in the road we found along the way. There were always new things to see and new views of things we had seen before. With the sun going behind clouds from time to time the variation was enhanced.
Going back over the pictures, there are many that look alike. This is a collection of 20 of the 140 photos I took. In addition I have two panoramic views. I left out a lot of spectacular shots.
There a few local hoodoos that were even more colorful than usual. This red colored formation was about 300 feet below the road. The zoom on my camera brought it close enough to get the feel that some gnomes are marching across the canyon floors.
Occasionally the erosion creates an arch. This is one that is beginning. It will grow bigger and bigger until the harder top rock falls away. These are nothing like what you see in the hard sandstone at Arches National Park, but they are interesting.
We met several wildlife friends who visited with us as we took our pictures. They all seemed to expect us to feed them. This crow was very interested in what we had and then found a candy wrapper on the pavement. It was not afraid of us, but was wary. It is sad that people persist in dropping their garbage along the way for animals like this to find and devour. It definitely was not to his benefit.
Down in the canyon there were some wild formations.This set of hoodoos looked like a castle. The clouds and sunshine played with it, and we got several shots where it changed its appearance again and again. It was probably over a mile away from the road, so it is much larger than it may appear in this photo.
Hard rock caps covers the softer material. The caps protect the material underneath from erosion, leading to the high spires. They estimate that the canyon has eroded away about 60 feet since it was first visited in the mid-1800s. We don't have to worry a great deal about the erosion. There are still miles of hills to be eroded away, producing an every changing National treasure. Of course, they will have to tear out the road and move it back from time to time.
There were some formations that will fall in the next few years. This balanced rock is a candidate for sooner rather than later. They tell us Bryce Canyon is eroding at an average of six inches per year. In some ways that seems like a lot, but it has taken over a million years to get where it is now.
The clouds continued to hang around.They brought out some of the more interesting colors from time to time. This picture provides a good view of the primary cap rock for the region. It is cracked along the edge so that water seeps down and carries away the material from around the spires that will develop in later years.
Here we look south along the escarpment back towards Rainbow Point where we started about noon. As you can see, there are places where the clouds are almost gone and the sky is clear.
Further down the road we stopped to view Natural Bridge. A sign at the site made a point that this is an arch, not a natural bridge. There is no stream flowing through it. It was named back before people got picky about such things.
But there is a big bully cut back into the hillside along side the road that is the source for the runoff that is cutting this arch deeper and deeper.
The colors changed as the sun changed its angle. This pink cliff contrasted nicely to the green hills in the distance. Further in the distance you can see even more breaks where the erosion is building even more canyons.
Some cliffs showed the strata well. This photo shows the variations in colors of the formations. The whole of southern Utah is underlaid by these formations. They produce some of the most spectacular scenery found in the United States, if not the world.
One of my toys is the PhotoVista program. It stitches digital photos together into a panorama, adjusting the magnification and shades to match the side-by-side shots almost seamlessly. It does this with photos I take without a tripod.
This is a panoramic view from Bryce Point. It spans over 180 degrees of view, so it takes a little getting used to. You can download the full image from the web, but be sure you want to do it. The large version of this picture is 1.1Mbytes in size..
Around the observation points were the mamas and papas of wildlife. The signs all said do not feed the animals, but this one obviously was eating something. She was quite willing to pose for me and several others. She was not really happy when we did not pay off like she hoped.
We drove on up to Sunset Point. There are a number of trails originating around Sunset Point. You can walk down part way and then come back, or if you have the time you can do a full circuit. Of course, it takes longer to come back than it does to go down.
Be sure you have a good pair of shoes before you venture on the trails. They are loose dirt and gravel, and you can slip. If a shower comes along while you are on the trail, it can get muddy and slippery.
Deb made it part way down one of the trails. It was a little more steep than she wanted, so she rested against the up side from time to time.
The colors become more intense as you go down the trails, especially as the sun shines on the walls and reflects back and forth down into the depths. It is something to see.
The park is installing a shuttle system. This may become the only way to see Bryce in the future, at least during the busy season. The staging area is at the north end of the road near Ruby's Inn.
Here is some miscellaneous information. The average rainfall is about 18 inches per year. In 1999 there were 1.7 million visitors, mostly between mid-June and the first of September. There is a use fee for entering the park. The area was first settled by Ebenezer Bryce who helped settle the area in 1875 to 1880. The nearest significant town is Tropic which sits at the bottom of the escarpment.
The sun was still high in the west when sunset began. The sun was at our back and the shadows built and stretched out across the hoodoos and canyons.
Slowly but surely the shade enveloped the canyons. We did not have the time to stay until the end -- it was 80 miles back to camp. So we left before the final show. But we saw enough to gain an appreciation for the beautiul scenery at Bryce Canyon. I believe we will go back some day and try out more of the trails. If we take it easy, even us old foggies can make it up and down the sides of the canyon. And the views from below should make it all worthwhile.