image: buckskin gulch
image © Robert Luis Chavez

Buckskin Gulch... 11" x 14" fine print $325.00
The different colors of sand in the canyon
combined to make this striking pattern.


Soon after sunrise and breakfast we started the day trip up the Buckskin Gulch. Today we would leave the tents and heavy packs in camp since we would stay another night here. I could travel relatively lightly with my photo gear and a day pack holding lunch, water, jacket, and spare shoes. Here is my list of photography gear for the whole trip and the Buckskin Gulch hike. I'm not listing small items like lens brushes, filters, spare MS76 batterries or such.

Basic Camera Gear for Paria River Hike
  • Two Olympus OM Class manual cameras
  • Tamron 70-210 zoom lens
  • Olympus Zuiko 50MM lens
  • Tamron 28MM lens
  • Tripod of the small, light, $40 generic variety
  • Waterproof sack for camera gear

From the confluence with the Paria River we went up the Buckskin which was right away narrower than the Paria. The width near the confluence varies from 10 to 50 feet and looks to be 150 to 200 feet deep, a true slot canyon. In the very narrow parts you can touch both sides of the canyon and maybe jump the gap across the top.

At almost every turn in the Buckskin Gulch there's another visual feast and photographers paradise. I'll give you three examples with photographs of just one aspect of the magic of the canyon. The wind blew red sand from the navajo sandstone layer above into the slot canyon. You might not feel any wind at all, especailly in the narrows, but you can feel and hear the constant rain of sand. Example 1: In the above photo the wind blown red sand settled into the low spots of a pattern of lighter sand deposited by water. Example 2: In the previous photograph the sand settled on an angled rock. The rock was angled just right so the sand rolled off the rock as it was deposited and continually maintained the pattern. Example 3: In the photo "Mudcurls" the curling, peeling layers of mud reveal thier colors including a skin of navajo sandstone red.

Photographers beware, the wind really does produce a steady shower of sand in the Paria and certainly in the Buckskin Gulch, I guess every rose has it's thorns. Be prepared to cover your camera gear and/or crawl into a corner to change film and lenses. A bag to cover your camera between shots is a good idea too.