Coyote Buttes - The Wave The Wave is located in the Coyote Buttes North area of the Arizona Strip. There are two great photographic locations in Coyote Buttes North (The Wave and The Second Wave) and numerous minor ones including Top Rock Arch, Melody Arch and the Grotto, the Hooters, The Alcove, Sand Cove, and Fatali's Boneyard. The Wave is best photographed midday so as to minimize the extensive shadows, the other areas listed above are best photographed mid-late afternoon.
The South Buttes also has many good features and is well worth visiting, as is the White Pocket and Edmaier's Secret. It can be difficult to get a permit to see the Wave. During the best months (April, May, September, October) there can be over 150 people applying for the ten daily permits. In the other months you usually have less than a 50% chance of getting one at the daily lottery. Your chances are better if you're going alone, or in December - February. If you do not win the lottery I suggest you get one for Coyote Buttes South, or go to the White Pocket which is east of Coyote Buttes South. I know of one person who was lost overnight in Coyote Buttes South, so use a GPS, mark the trailhead, and stay with your party. While a two wheel drive vehicle is adequate for the North Buttes, four wheel drive is required for the South due to deep sand. See the Information link above for more details about Coyote Buttes and the Wave.
What's New (click on any heading to expand/contract)
December 30, 2014 - White Sands NM
White Sands National Monument contains the largest gypsum dune field in the world - 275 square miles. It is located in southcentral New Mexico and is less than two hours from El Paso, Texas by car. White Sands gets nearly 600,000 visitors every year and is very popular in the spring and summer months. Unlike the other major US sand dune fields ( Great Sand Dunes National Park and Death Valley NP), the sand in White Sands is perfectly white and very fine grained. Vegetation (grasses, yuccas, and occasional Cottonwoods) is common throughout much of the park and adds considerably to White Sands photographic appeal. I recently spent several days in the park photographing the cottonwood trees and yuccas and came away with many good images. I've added a gallery of images to this site here, and a map and some tips on photographing the park here.
November 21, 2014 - Lake Powell
With over two million visitors a year, it's hard to call Lake Powell a secret. However despite its dazzling beauty few professional photographers go out on the lake and shoot it. Gary Ladd, a resident of Page since 1981 and a well known Arizona Highways photographer, is one of those who regularly do so. When I found out he was leading a week tour of the lake this past October I booked it immediately. Despite imperfect weather I got some magnificent photos and had a great time during the week I spent on the lake.
The Lake offers almost everything a desert
October 29, 2014 - Horizon Arch
Horizon Arch is a photogenic arch close to the town of Escalante, Utah. The arch is also known as Kissing Dragons Arch. Visiting the arch requires a five-seven mile off-trail hike where the mileage depends on whether your vehicle can reach the closer trailhead. Good navigation and route finding skills are needed. I've added a gallery of images here, and maps and directions to the arch here. The arch is best shot at sunset and is worth visiting if you are in the Escalante area.
Many thanks to Michael Haudek who provided me with excellent directions to the arch. His website contains directions in German and some good photos of the area.
October 16, 2014 - Sunset and Moonrise Arches
October is perhaps the best month in which to visit the Southwest; temperatures are pleasant, and the aspen and cottonwoods are changing. I spent a few days in Escalante the first week of October revisiting Dance Hall Rock, and shooting Sunset and Moonrise arches. It was too early in October for the cottonwoods on Dance Hall Rock to change color but I did get a few good images. Sunset and Moonrise arches are only a few miles from Dance Hall Rock. The iconic shot of Sunset Arch frames Navajo Mountain, shooting the arch from the other side yields a nice sunburst. Moonrise arch frames the full moon at sunset. I was there a few days before the full moon but still got a reasonable image. I've added directions to both arches here, and some images here. Finally I revisited Balancing Rock near Boulder. I shot this last year mid day, sunset yields much better color. The shadow of the hoodoo was not optimal in early October, spring or summer would be better.
September 27, 2014 - Major Maps Upgrade
Google recently introduced a new version of Google Maps, called My Maps. The old version of Google Maps ("Classic") is being discontinued. My Maps offers several advantages over "Classic" Maps including layers and improved stability. In view of this change all of the maps on this site have been migrated to "My Maps'. Other enhancements to this site include:
September 4, 2014 - The Magnificent Confluence
Just outside Grand Canyon National Park there is a largely unknown overlook of the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. The view of The Confluence is as good as any in Grand Canyon National Park proper with one key difference, you will probably have the overlook all to yourself. You can camp right at the overlook on the rim of the Grand Canyon with the Colorado river visible 3,500 feet below. The viewpoint lies in the Navajo Nation and a $12 permit is needed to visit it. The viewpoint is the future site of the controversial "Escalade" project should it be approved and make its way through the courts, so I suggest you visit it now before construction begins.
I've added many images taken from the overlook here, and a map and directions here. A 4x4 and good navigation skills are needed to traverse the thirty offroad miles to the overlook. No hiking required.
Highly recommended, see it now!
August 18, 2014 - Two arches that don't get their due
I recently visited two spectacular arches in the Hanksville area that are rarely photographed despite their beauty. Both are moderately difficult to get to. The first is Arsenic Arch located about twenty miles south of Hanksville. It's best at sunset and can be combined with a trip to Little Egypt which is nearby and great at sunrise. The drive to Arsenic is easy but the hike, while not difficult, is off trail and requires good navigation skills. I've added a map with good directions to the arch. You'll probably have the arch to yourself, and the hike is fun. A small camping area with room for two cars is close by, again you'd probably have this to yourself.
The second arch is Colonnade Arch located in an alcove west of the Maze district of Canyonlands NP. The arch is also known as Five Hole Arch since it has three outward facing openings, and two openings in its roof. The arch overlooks the Green River and Canyonlands NP can be seen to its east. The arch is best at sunrise when it gets good reflected light and capturing a sunburst is possible for most of the year. It is fairly difficult to get to this arch as it is forty miles over a good dirt road from the nearest highway. A one mile off trail hike over varied terrain is also required. Getting to the arch for sunrise would be difficult unless you camp at the trailhead and scout out the hike the prior evening, or camp near the arch. Please do not camp in the arch!
July 20, 2014 - Bisti Badlands Update
I've added many new images from a recent trip to The Bisti Badlands. Most of the images are from the northern section of the Bisti. This area includes The Bisti Wings which is perhaps the most photogenic area in the Bisti. The Wings are well photographed at sunrise, sunset, the blue hour, or during the night. Shoot either from overlooks to their east, or up close with a wide angle lens. At night The Wings provide good foreground for The Milky Way to the east, and can also be used as foreground for star trails. Normal access is via a two mile one way hike starting at the main Bisti parking lot, however shorter and easier access is possible from the Bisti north parking area. I've updated the Bisti map to show my GPS tracks from both parking areas.
July 19, 2014 - Coal Mine Canyon, Navajo Nation Permit Changes
I've added a gallery of images from Coal Mine Canyon, a scenic area near Tuba City in Arizona. Coal Mine Canyon is a good summer destination since hiking is minimal and it is at 5,800 feet. I've also added a map with directions on how to get there. A Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation permit is needed to visit the rim of Coal Mine Canyon, see the maps page for information on how to obtain one. The Navajo Nation recently increased hiking fees substantially, from $5 pp per day, to $12 pp per day. The permit is valid for a full 24 hours from first use, so backpacking and camping are now included in the fee.
Finally, access to White Mesa Arch is no longer allowed and Navajo permits for this area will no longer be issued. White Mesa Arch is part of the Kaibeto Chapter community which prohibits hiking and camping throughout the entire area under its jurisdiction.
May 13, 2014 - Update on rescued California hiker
Richard Ong, the 62 year old hiker recently rescued near The Wave, is recovering from his injuries. Richard was discovered near the Notch trail, an alternative route to The Wave. Since Richard's car was parked at the Wirepass Trailhead which is over a mile from the Notch trailhead it is possible he made a wrong turn on his way back to his car. More information and some good tips on safety can be found in this article from the St George News.
May 6, 2014 - California hiker rescued near The Wave
A 62 year old man was rescued on Sunday after falling from a cliff south of The Wave. The victim had a permit to visit the area on Friday. On Saturday a BLM ranger noticed his car still at the trailhead and contacted his wife who said she hadn't heard from him. At dawn on Sunday searchers combed the area on foot and horse back. The victim was found by a searcher approaching The Wave from the south. The man suffers from diabetes and is in intensive care in an area hospital. More information is available in this Salt Lake Tribune article.
May 1, 2014 - Many new photos and some timelapses added
I've updated several of the galleries on the site. New images taken at Coyote Buttes North, the White Pocket, Studhorse Point, Rhyolite, and Horseshoe Bend were added. The Coyote Buttes North area includes new images of The Wave and several images taken atop the cliffs in the upper west part of the CBN permit area. This area is rarely visited and contains a great deal of Lace Rock. The fins on lace rock are typically less than 1 cm thick and break very easily, please tread carefully.
Startrails taken at the Boneyard, Sand Hills, the Lace Rock area, Studhorse Point, and Rhyolite were added as were timelapse videos made at The White Pocket, Rhyolite, and Studhorse Point. Timelapses were generated using the excellent program LRTimelapse.
Finally I've updated the Coyote Buttes North map section to include GPS tracks from some recent visits, and to include the location of the beautiful Hourglass Arch on Top Rock.
January 15, 2014 - Adeii Eichii Cliffs, Arizona
I've added a gallery of images taken at the Adeii Eichii Cliffs. This area, just east of Cameron, Arizona, is rarely visited. It is part of the Navajo Nation and an easily acquired permit is needed to visit it. The region has many red and white striped hoodoos and the rock formations remind me of those in Blue Canyon. The Adeii Eichii Cliffs are virtually unknown to photographers in the US. There is some information on EU websites in the Dutch, German and French languages. My thanks go to my Belgian friend Rudi for drawing my attention to the area, and for translating some of the material available overseas.
The Adeii Eichii Cliffs are quite difficult to find and there has been some trouble with local homeowners in the past so I suggest you read the information on the maps page carefully before planning a trip there.
January 7, 2014 - The Walk in Lottery
I recently received one year of data from the BLM showing the number of people applying at the walk in lottery in Kanab. The Permit Information page on this site contains the data and an analysis of the best/worst times to apply. Here is a brief summary showing the number of walk in applicants by month:
As can be seen, if you apply in January you have an excellent chance of getting a permit.
If you've been frustrated by the permit process you should visit the link above. The data should help you maximize or at least understand your chances of getting a permit.
December 14, 2013 - Sedona, Arizona
I've added a small gallery of images from Sedona, my home town. Sedona's many houses often work their way into your pictures, but good images can be had if you know where to go. GPS coordinates are included for most of the pictures in the gallery. Click on the camera icon below the image to get the latitude / longitude, or the marker icon to see where the image was shot on a map. The icons are circled below. The date and time the image was taken is also available, note that times are given in the Greenwich (UTC/GMT) time zone. Arizona times are always seven hours earlier than GMT times, i.e. noon GMT is 5 AM in Arizona.
December 4, 2013 - The hoodoo in Boulder, Utah
If you've driven Highway 12 from Bryce or Escalante to Capitol Reef you may have noticed a small hoodoo about one mile west of the ranching town of Boulder. Or you may have seen it on page 121 of Laurent Martres excellent book "Photographing the Southwest Volume 1 - Utah". This hoodoo is named "Balancing Rock", and it appears on the Boulder Town USGS 24K topo map. I finally got a chance to visit the hoodoo recently. I have posted a few images and directions on this site. I visited "Balancing Rock" at noon, hardly the best time to photograph it. Photos would be much better at sunset, or even at night if you're willing to hike down the steep terrain in the dark. This hoodoo is spectacular and well worth a visit if you're in the Boulder area.
November 27, 2013 - Sharing Photos and Information about The Wave
I've created a community on Google+ called The Wave. This community is for sharing images and information about The Wave and surrounding area. Posts might include trip reports or information on road conditions, trail conditions, safety, whether water or snow was present, and how many people were at the walk-in lottery, for example. If you haven't already done so I suggest you join Google+. This can be done at http://www.plus.google.com. After you have done so please join the public community The Wave. Once you have a Google+ account you can join a community by following the instructions here. Before posting to The Wave please read the rules on the right side of the communities home page.
Please join the community and post your images. I'd love to see them.
You can also follow my personal posts by clicking on the button on the right side of the menu above.
November 25, 2013 - Coyote Buttes South Update
I recently visited this area and had breathtaking conditions right at sunset. I've never seen the Control Tower in better light. The Control Tower is also a good destination for star trails photography as the best view is towards the north, and the hoodoo is relatively close to the Cottonwood Cove parking area. I have added and reprocessed many of the images in the Coyote Buttes South Gallery. The Coyote Buttes South map has undergone a major revision and now supports layers. This new feature makes it easy to view only the areas and roads of interest on the map.
November 14, 2013 - Dance Hall Rock
Dance Hall Rock is a superb destination in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Little hiking is needed to get some great photos in the summer when dramatic skies are present, and in October when the cottonwoods change color. I've added a gallery here, and maps and some tips on photographing the area here.
November 11, 2013 - The Page Balloon Regatta
October 22, 2013 - Tukuhnikivatz Arch
October 20, 2013 - Collet Top Arch
October 16, 2013 - Twentymile Wash Dinosaur Tracksite
If you are in the Bryce area and looking for something a little different you might try the Twentymile Wash Tracksite. This site contains over 1,000 tracks in a beautiful environment of Entrada sandstone. I suggest you visit the tracksite in mid afternoon, and then go to nearby Devil's Garden to shoot sunset. I've added a small gallery of images from the tracksite here, and travel directions here.
October 9, 2013 - Wave fines
Apparently the Coyote Buttes law enforcement ranger has been very active in giving out fines. Here's some information posted on backcountrypost.com:
“I talked to someone at Paria Outfitters about how heavily patrolled House Rock Valley Road is. They said that the ranger who checks permits was not furloughed and that he is catching people poaching the Wave. One of them received a $1200 fine.”
Apparently $1,200 is the standard fine. Forewarned is forearmed.
Thanks Bill for the updated information.
October 6, 2013 - Shutdown Update
Here's a paraphrased update I received from Lance.
"We hiked The Wave on Oct. 4, 2013. We had four permits from the web lottery run four months prior to hike. We met a ranger when we arrived at the parking lot, who said because those permits were issued prior to shutdown, they are valid and hiking The Wave is allowed with them. He said self-service day use areas are officially closed as are all other hikes where permits are to be picked up at the office. He drove off as we were heading down the wash, and obviously wasn't there the rest of the day, as within a few hours we saw at least 30 people hiking the same trail, and the parking lot was overflowing when we returned. The ranger also mentioned the significant fines for hiking without a permit."
This confirms what I indicated earlier - Coyote Buttes North and South are open if you already have a permit. Note also that since day use of Wire Pass and Buckskin Gulch require a fee to be paid at the trailhead they are closed.
Thank you very much Lance.
October 4, 2013 - Sand Hills Revisited
I've updated the Sand Hill section of the site with two new locations. The first is an overlook of Wrather Arch, considered the least accessible of the major US arches. The second is Soap Creek Tanks. This is an area of multicolored brain rock near the SE corner of Vermilion Cliffs. Soap Creek Tanks is full of spotted rocks, I have never similar rocks elsewhere. I've also added topo maps covering Sand Hills and Vermilion Cliffs in Geotiff, KMZ overlay, and Oruxmap formats.
October 3, 2013 - The Government Shutdown
I have contacted several sources in Kanab and have received conflicting information about whether existing permits for Coyote Buttes are valid. My best information, coming from the Kane County Visitor Center, is that if you have a permit it is valid. Lottery permits and walk-in permits are not being issued at this time.
I have heard indirectly from a local guide that there were 50 people at The Wave yesterday. Going to The Wave without a permit is illegal. Law enforcement is one of the areas that the BLM and NPS have not completely shut down, and fines for entering Coyote Buttes without a permit are substantial.
If anyone has further information about whether the area is closed, or can provide information about visitation or conditions at The Wave, please email me and I will update this post. I would especially like to hear from someone in the BLM with definitive information.
September 9, 2013 - The Great Wall
August 31, 2013 - White Pocket Screensaver added
I've added a downloadable screensaver / desktop wallpaper to the site. The wallpaper consists of 18 of my favorite White Pocket images. The images were resized and cropped to fit most common screen sizes. The images and installation instructions can be found here. A screensaver for Coyote Buttes North images will be forthcoming shortly.
August 28, 2013 - US89T set to open tomorrow, with restrictions
Drivers headed to Page and the Lake Powell area this Labor Day weekend will have a shorter option when the Arizona Department of Transportation opens the newly paved Temporary US 89 route (US 89T) on Thursday, August 29, albeit with some restrictions. While the 27-mile paving operations have been completed, US 89T remains an active construction zone as crews continue to install right-of-way fencing along the corridor, which has a large amount of livestock. Until fencing is complete, US 89T will be open during daylight hours only (except for local residents) and there will be a 25 mph speed limit in place. When construction is complete, the speed limit will be raised and nighttime restrictions will be lifted. More information about this new route to Page can be found on the Arizona Dept. Of Transportation website.
August 26, 2013 - The Classic Wave
An estimated 50% of visitors to Coyote Buttes North never explore much beyond The Wave. This is especially true in the summer and winter when extreme temperatures, lightning, or snow cover tend to keep visits short. In view of this I've added some thoughts on how to shoot The Wave itself. A gallery showing what I believe to be the classic images of The Wave is here, and below is a map of The Wave showing where these were taken. Click on any image in the map to zoom in.
The Wave opens up in three directions, to the north (the direction you came in on), to the east, and to the southwest. Each of these openings has a good photo associated with it as can be seen on the map above.
All of the above photos can be shot at night as well. Shoot startrails following the blue and red arrows, or the Milky Way following the green arrow on a moonless night. I have not yet shot the slot canyon at night but believe it would work well also.
Permits to The Wave are so hard to get that I'd suggest you shoot all of the above on your first trip. They can all be shot early morning to noon. In addition to these images there are many other possibilities, see my main Wave gallery for some ideas.
August 3, 2013 - Poll on safety added
The BLM is currently considering additional measures to improve safety at The Wave. I've added a poll on the right showing some of the actions they might take. To vote in the poll please select one choice from the list of options. Each option has its pluses and minuses such as cost or difficulty to implement, effect on visitors or the environment, and whether the "wilderness experience" is preserved. If you "mouse-over" each option in the poll you'll get additional information about that option.
Please take the time to vote in the poll. If there are other options I have missed please add them in the comments section of the poll here.
The last poll is still available via the Polls tab above, or by clicking here. Based on that poll of 600 people who have been to The Wave about 40% visited The Second Wave, and about 20% visited other areas such as Top Rock, Melody Arch, Sand Cove, etc. Over 90% of the people who visited Top Rock found Melody Arch or The Alcove.
July 23, 2013 - Another fatality at The Wave
In yet another tragedy Elisabeth Ann Bervel died on her way back from the Wave on Monday July 22nd. She was hiking with her husband and collapsed shortly before 2 PM, probably due to heat exhaustion. Elisabeth is the mother of two and was 27 years old. The couple was hiking on their fifth wedding anniversary.
This is the third fatality this month at The Wave. As a result, the BLM is currently considering adding additional signs marking the way to The Wave, and making changes to the permit process so that people do not feel compelled to hike in on questionable days.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to Elisabeth's family for their sad loss.
July 14, 2013 - White Pocket redux
Once again it's the time of the year to visit the White Pocket. It rained heavily on July 2nd and there was water everywhere. This led to some great photo ops, and some loud toad croaking. I've updated my gallery with many new images and included a new area that I hadn't visited before. The far north end of the White Pocket has a great many moqui marbles resting on coral colored polygonal cracks. This area is the best I've seen for photographing moqui marbles. It is illegal to remove the marbles. I've also added some images of The Milky Way and of some nearby petroglyphs. Water dries quickly in 100°F plus weather but I would expect there to be water in the deeper pools throughout the summer.
July 7, 2013 - Two hikers succumb to heat at The Wave
In another terrible tragedy Ulrich and Patricia Wahli apparently succumbed to temperatures that reached 106 degrees on Wednesday July 3rd. They had walk-in permits for The Wave and were found by other hikers early on July 4th. Cause of death is not fully known but is believed to be heat related.
Safety - If you must go into The Wave at this time of year go in early. Leave your car no later than sunrise and preferably a bit earlier. You should be out of the area by 11 AM at the latest. On July 3rd it was still over 100 degrees at 7 PM. Going in late is not a good option. You'll also need more than the normal recommendation of four quarts of water, up to nine! may be needed. Electrolyte drinks are preferable to water. Avoid caffeine. There is no shelter on the way to/from The Wave, you may want to bring a Mylar space blanket to create a temporary one, reflective side up. A PLB or satellite phone may also help but remember, emergency help is at least 1-2 hours away and you can die of heat stroke very quickly after symptoms are recognized.
July 1, 2013 - Depth of Field
I've added a long article on Depth of Field together with some good techniques for controlling it to the Techniques Section of the site. I've also added a new Tools Section to the site. The first tools added are a standard DOF Calculator and a Blur Calculator. The Blur Calculator shows, in number of pixels, how blur increases as you move away from the plane of sharp focus. Both tools are web based but can be installed on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone for use in the field.