There are so many vastly grand places to visit in Southern Utah that sometimes an observer’s eyes and sensibilities can become surfeited with enormous reddish-orange sandstone formations towering above. Modest landscapes are the answer, though to tell the truth Utah’s less spectacular scenes would be the crown jewels of many states’ parks if they could be magically exported.
There’s a small state park in southern Utah called Kodachrome Basin. The park is surrounded by its spectacular but overcrowded Federal peers, and the place can easily be overlooked by a traveler anxious to see such famous sites such as Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion.
The name “Kodachrome Basin” sounds a bit antiquated to me, a throwback to the days of film photography. Is Kodachrome film even manufactured these days? I can imagine a time far in the future, perhaps a period following a recovery from a dystopian era of lost knowledge. The park is still open but nobody remembers the source of the name. A belief has arisen that the park was named after an ancient Ute chief called Ko-Da-Krom, a mighty warrior who lived in the basin, way back in the dim mists of the past.
The park is in a small valley, perhaps just a few miles across. It is bordered on three sides by steep and jagged sandstone mountains which rise about one thousand feet from the valley floor, which is covered by sagebrush interspersed with pinon pine and juniper trees. Surreal phallic pillars of red and white sandstone tower over the valley like sentinels or watchtowers. The cliffs ringing the valley look like they were frozen while oozing from the depths. These cliffs look like
miniature alps. Weirdly fanciful shapes abound, and it is difficult to
see them without being reminded of goblin faces and mutant hybrid
The valley is sprinkled with narrow stone towers which remind people variously of sentinels, pipes, or stony generative organs. There are several theories which attempt to explain the origin of these curious structures. Erosion of surrounding soft sediments seems to be the likely culprit.
Between the valley floor and the surrounding peaks sculpted sandstone oddities brood silently over the campgrounds:
The basin contains one stone arch:
Two more scenes from a chilly morning walk:
We encountered just one other hardy camper the morning after a seventeen-degree F. night. She said, “I read about this place in a hiking guidebook; it was described as a national park in miniature, and I figured that it wouldn’t be too crowded this time of year!”