Picture a broad, flat plain with a stream meandering across it in serpentine loops. Now tip the earth upward slowly at one end so the stream flows faster, cutting those loops down through earth and rock. Then, let the mechanics of erosion do their work. Come back in 300 million years or so and you’ve got the Goosenecks of the San Juan River. And a view that has few rivals.

 

At Utah’s Goosenecks State Park you stand on the bank of that meandering stream. Now, the water is 1,000 feet below you. In front of you and to your left and right it courses in loops so sinuous that it flows 5 miles just to travel one linear mile. At your feet, epoch after epoch of the earth’s history is told in the colorful rock layers lining the canyon walls. You needn’t feel embarrassed if words fail you.

Accommodations at the park are rudimentary — an observation shelter, picnic tables, some primitive campsites and vault toilets. No water or firewood is available. The park has no hiking or bike trails, no access to the river below. Entry to the park is $5 per car. If you wish to camp, to see the sun rise or set on this panorama, to lose yourself in a brilliant night sky, the fee is $10 per night.

To get to Goosenecks State Park, travel 25 miles west of Bluff along US 163, west on SR 261, then southwest on SR 316. Coming north from Monument Valley, the turnoff to SR 261 is not long after you leave Mexican Hat. Warning! You will be traveling through scenery so fascinating you may forget to watch for highway signs.

BY LARRY HILLER

PHOTOS BY ARKIN HILL