The day after visiting Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah, I checked out Dead Horse Point State Park. It is located very close to the Island In The Sky district of Canyonlands and offers stunning views of the national park. It’s essentially a smaller Island In The Sky with some good views of the Colorado River.
The story behind the name is tragic. Early settlers used these “sky islands” as natural pens for livestock and other animals. Even the local Native Americans did this to an extent. Some early American settlers trapped a group of wild horses on the mesa that’s now the state park. They picked the mustangs that they wanted to tame, then left the others on the mesa to die of thirst. That’s why it’s called Dead Horse Point. My 10-year-old daughter loves horses, and she was particularly appalled at the story. That, of course, is just a brief dark period for this land, but the name stuck, even though it is a little grim.
Dead Horse Point State Park is breathtakingly beautiful! The views are stunning. For the most part, what you see is Canyonlands National Park, just from a little different angle. You actually get better views of the Colorado River here than on Island In The Sky. It’s surprising to me that this section isn’t included in the national park system.
If you have the choice between the two, definitely go for Canyonlands. If you have time for a little more, visit Dead Horse Point. On the way out from Moab on the way home, my family and I detoured to see the state park. It took us, from the time we left U.S. 191 to the time we returned, a total of three hours. We could have stayed much longer, but we were a little strapped for time.
Lighting was terrible for photography when I was at the state park. There was a thin high overcast layer of clouds that did just enough to make the light ugly. Also, I was there mid-morning, well past the golden hour. I used a Fujifilm X100F and Fujifilm X-A3 with a Jupiter 21M lens attached to capture these images. I edited the camera-made JPEGs using Nik Color Efex and Nik Silver Efex software, with the exception of two, which are straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. I would have preferred to rely just on the JPEGs unedited, but the light was just so ugly for photography while I was there that they needed some work to make them look decent.
I didn’t capture any great photographs while at Dead Horse Point State Park, but I definitely saw the potential. At the right time under the right light, the opportunity to capture some portfolio worthy images certainly exists at this place. I hope to return sometime in the near future to capture better photographs.