Colorado River From Dead Horse Point State Park

January 20th, 2011 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Colorado River From Dead Horse Point

Contest Ended January 20, 2020 (Ran Exactly Nine Years from date of post.)

The Legend Of Dead Horse Point

Colorado River From Dead Horse Point, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah, 1963 by Philip Hyde. He also made a vertical color transparency and exposed two slightly different angles, that is two versions, of the photograph as a black and white negative on the same trip. I still have one 11X14 vintage black and white print of one version and two 20X24 vintage black and white prints of the other version. I have not yet searched for the printing card in Dad’s printing index, but it appears he made a number of black and white prints. However, by the time he started printing color dye transfer prints in the mid 1970s, the early Kodak E-3 film may have already color shifted and faded too much to print color prints. To work this up as a color print now took significant restoration work. The color horizontal was published in 1969 in Dad’s book “The Grand Colorado” by T. H. Watkins with photographs by Philip Hyde. It was also published in Geo Magazine in 1989. The color vertical was published in an instructional TV program for 5th Graders called “The Seed Gatherers” in 1969. It was also published in 1982 in National Parks Magazine and in 1987 in “Drylands: The Deserts Of North America.”

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Dead Horse Point State Park lies at the heart of canyon country in Southeast Utah just 32 winding miles West of Moab. Dead Horse Point overlooks part of Canyonlands National Park and the Colorado River 2,000 feet below. From Dead Horse Point 150 million years of geological time and erosion of the Colorado River canyons can be viewed on a grand scale. The river is still slicing down through the slowly rising Earth’s crust “sculpting the fantastic shapes of the precipitous bluffs and towering spires.”, the Utah travel industry website explains how Dead Horse Point received its name:

Before the turn of the century, mustang herds ran wild on the mesas near Dead Horse Point. The unique promontory provided a natural corral into which the horses were driven by cowboys. The only escape was through a narrow, 30-yard neck of land controlled by fencing. Mustangs were then roped and broken, with the better ones being kept for personal use or sold to eastern markets. Unwanted culls of “broomtails” were left behind to find their way off the Point. According to one legend, a band of broomtails was left corralled on the Point. The gate was supposedly left open so the horses could return to the open range. For some unknown reason, the mustangs remained on the Point. There they died of thirst within sight of the Colorado River.

At first glance, Dead Horse Point appears to be a barren land, but it is teaming with plants and animals that have adapted to survive on a severely limited water supply. Many animals are nocturnal, coming out in the evenings when the intense heat subsides. Other wildlife and vegetation have dormant periods that vary with the limited rainfall.

One Of The Most Photographed Views In The World

The Discover Moab website says, “The view from Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world.” My father pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde may have been the first to photograph Dead Horse Point in 1963. I have not found record of any other photographer having made a published photograph from Dead Horse Point of the Colorado River and canyons before 1963.

Dad and my mother Ardis made their September-October 1963 Southwest Trip almost exactly a year before the original founding of Canyonlands National Park in September 1964. The park was already proposed, but a great deal of road building and damage to the land had been recently inflicted through the search for Uranium mining sites. Before exploring Canyonlands, Mom and Dad stopped at Arches, which at the time was a National Monument. They met with Russel “Slim” Maybery. They went to dinner with Slim Maybery and his wife Juanita. After dinner Mom and Dad watched Slim Maybery do a slide presentation on canyon country. Slim Maybery became famous as one of those who along with Bates Wilson led the campaigns to make Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. Slim Maybery also became famous for inventing the double slalom ski event.

In those days many of the roads were extremely rough, primitive and only passable by 4-wheel drive vehicle. Mom and Dad drove their International Travelall into Canyonlands. The Travelall was like a large Suburban but with only 2-wheel drive. Dad arranged to have a guide in a Jeep named Tom Mulhern drive ahead. Whenever the going became too rough for the Travelall, Mom and Dad would leave it and pile into the Jeep and continue on.

The Photographs That Helped Save Canyonlands And Arches National Parks

A number of Dad’s photographs from that trip later became part of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series book Navajo Wildlands: As Long As The Rivers Shall Run and one of the most well-known Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series volumes, Slickrock: The Canyon Country Of Southeast Utah by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde. Slickrock helped in the campaign to expand Canyonlands National Park and Arches, as well as to make Arches a National Park in 1971.

In Canyonlands they explored the “bays” of the White Rim, which Dad described in the travel log as, “A sandstone cap on a terrace which runs back to the talus slopes below the sheer cliffs of the plateau edge.” Dead Horse Point is on one end of these bays and Island In The Sky and Grandview Point are on the other. Mom, Dad and Tom Mulhern took off on several short hikes, or rather scrambles, down into the canyons. They also took the Jeep down a precipitous road that led all the way to the Colorado River.

“Everywhere thus far the country shows the effect of the Uranium Boom in roads going everywhere and in occasional pits, tailings piles or bulldozer scars,” Dad wrote. Tom left them and they followed the main road to Dead Horse Road. They finished the afternoon of October 6, 1963 at Dead Horse Point and camped there for the night. Because the air was heavy and hazy, Dad had to come back a few days later to photograph the view from Dead Horse Point using both black and white film and color film. It may have been the first time the view was photographed by a widely published photographer. Now “Colorado River From Dead Horse Point, Dead Horse State Park, Utah, 1963” is available for a limited time as a NEW RELEASE AT NEW RELEASE PRICING. For new release pricing see the portfolios and “Image Info” below each photograph on or the blog post, “New Release Pricing.”

Who Photographed Dead Horse Point First?

Al Weber taught the Ansel Adams Workshops and Ansel Adams Gallery Workshops for over 30 years. “Unfortunately that happens a lot,” Al Weber said. “People like Phil got there first and someone else came along, did it later and publicized it more. The tables are almost turned. The uninformed don’t recognize it.” Al Weber went on to talk about his first time at Dead Horse Point:

The first time I went to Dead Horse Point, which was around that time, I was working in Canyonlands for Ilford. The bridge going out to the last promontory at Dead Horse Point was really treacherous. I remember there were people who would drive up to it and would not drive across it. You’d go out there and there was this gap spanned by a hand made bridge with logs and planks over the logs, with no side rails. It was a natural corral. They didn’t have to fence it. When your Dad went out there, he had to cross that bridge. Knowing Phil he probably didn’t drive across, he probably walked across it. If you go down in my darkroom there is a panorama from Dead Horse Point, but it was mid 1970s by a friend of mine. I went up and camped out there for several days. I photographed all around, but I didn’t photograph the view. For some reason or other it just didn’t click for me to do it. The big scene is not that high on my list, but I was very taken with Dead Horse Point. I loved the solitude of it. Besides the fact that you could walk all around the rim of it and in every direction was something totally different.

For many years there has been a campaign to make Dead Horse Point part of Canyonlands National Park. Al Weber said, “They will get it, but that will be too bad because the next thing you know there will be a freeway out there.” The formation of National Parks often results in another type of over-development brought on by heavy visitation. Today, the campground at Dead Horse Point still has limited water and only 21 spaces.

The Contest: Colorado River From Dead Horse Point

Now for the contest… The New Dead Horse Point Contest is simple. Anyone who finds and can show proof of a photograph made before 1963 and published before 1969 of the view of the Colorado River and part of Canyonlands from Dead Horse Point, black and white or color, either through a website link or written copy of the image and verifiable date from a credible source as defined by me, will receive an 11X14 Philip Hyde authorized archival fine art digital print of any image of choice we are printing on the Philip Hyde Photography website, a $450 value. One person can win more than one print if he or she finds more than one photograph of Dead Horse Point made before 1963 and published before 1969. Also, there can be multiple winners, if multiple photographs meet the criteria. The contest will not go on indefinitely, but the ending date is unknown as of right now. The contest may end suddenly without any prior notice. Please report your progress and findings in the comments below.

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  1. Greg Russell says:

    David, this is fantastic news, and a gorgeous image of your father’s. There’s a very good reason this is one of the most photographed views in the world (combine this with nearby Mesa Arch in Canyonlands and you’ve got a pretty large percentage of the memory taken up by photographers each year!).

    I can’t begin to enter the contest, but who cares…I might have to save my pennies and just buy a print!


  2. Hi Greg, thank you. Yeah, Mesa Arch, Grand View Point, Dead Horse Point, Delicate Arch, they are all way overdone. Carr Clifton said that there are a group of Southwest landscape photographers who go around and around in a circle copying each other. Why not discover an arch nobody else has photographed? I notice that most of Dad’s large landscape scenes that are near pavement have all been copied over and over, whereas anything he photographed more than 10 miles from pavement has hardly been touched again for 30-50 years. I cannot fathom how people can call themselves nature, outdoor or landscape photographers if all they photograph is roadside landmarks a few steps from the car. To partly paraphrase Edward Abbey: a car is a great convenience, but once you arrive where you want to photograph, get the hell out away from the car and pay your dues, if you want to be a NATURE photographer. Back when Dad photographed Dead Horse Point, it was hard to get to, now it is an easy drive all on pavement and everyone and their mother stops by for a snap.

    On a lighter note, you don’t have to save your pennies, Greg. I will work with you. Lots of people buy prints in a number of payments or on a credit card while the print sale lasts.

  3. Hi Sharon, it probably does. Looks like the photograph was made in 1950. All you need to find out is if and when it was published. If it wasn’t published, or was published after Dad’s, it doesn’t count. Which reminds me I need to look up the publishing history of Dad’s photograph because it wasn’t published in 1963. Great job regardless. I didn’t think to start rummaging through various University’s archives in Arizona. Wow, that’s a big clue to other contestants of where to look. I must be losing my edge as a researcher and relying on the internet too much. These Universities don’t seem to index their holdings very well online.

    Alexander Brownlee seems like a colorful character. It will be intriguing to see how much of his photography ever was published. You can tell he was a Statistician more than a photographer as his images are plain and strictly documentary, though you can also see his love of canyon country too. Interesting that he was born in England, immigrated to the U.S. in 1949 around the time Dad started photographing the Southwest, and photographed many of the same locations around the same time as Dad. For example, he photographed Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in 1950. Dad first traveled to Dinosaur National Monument in 1951, but did not make his most famous vintage black and white photograph of Steamboat Rock until his return in 1955. Alexander Brownlee photographed Steamboat Rock in 1954. In Dinosaur National Monument, Alexander Brownlee did not get into as rugged areas as Dad, nor have as wide permissions or help from the Park Service. Dad had more time there and probably studied the lay of the land and geology far more in depth. Dad’s landscapes of Dinosaur National Monument show much more breadth and variety of locations than Alexander Brownlee’s. The National Park Service personnel at Dinosaur knew Dad was there and why and did everything in their power to make sure he had everything he needed to best show the beauty of the place they stood to lose to “Big Dam Foolishness.” Alexander Brownlee also made it into Glen Canyon before the waters closed over it, but his photographs in Glen Canyon appear to be solely in color. Funny that Cline Library of Northern Arizona University has Alexander Brownlee’s collection. Dad used to teach workshops through Northern Arizona University for a number of years, perhaps once or twice with renowned Southwest photographer Tad Nichols, but in particular and for the longest time he taught with Dick Arentz, another well-known Southwest photographer who is a superb artist and still teaches Platinum and Palladium printing. All very interesting.

  4. Please see sidebar/image caption in this post for publishing and printing history. Also, see additions to the rules at the end of the blog post to cover publishing dates, possible multiple winners and the end of the contest.

  5. pj says:

    Your father was indeed a pioneer. A couple of things have changed drastically even since the early ’60’s when he did this photo.

    First of all, the road building frenzy of the last few decades has made what was once inaccessible much easier to get to. Secondly, cameras have gotten smaller and easier to use and more affordable for more and more people. Everybody can carry one now, and can get remarkably good image quality with just the push of a button. Everyone can call themselves a photographer
    and can easily get to many places that were once too remote for any but the truly dedicated. This has done much to contribute to the endless flood of familiar images we see over and over again.

    Honest photographers need to be pioneers again, and there are basically two ways to do that. One way is like you said — get out of the damn car and get out into the more remote areas on foot, though these are getting harder to find. The other is to look inside ourselves, find what resonates with us within even a familiar scene, and put our own unique vision into a photograph. Either way is valid, though neither is as simple as just pushing a button.

  6. Greg Russell says:

    Hi, David. I once ran into a guy in Joshua Tree (at Jumbo Rocks) who had printed off “famous” images made in the park–he was going around trying to copy each one of them exactly. I watched him as he set up his tripod, and yeah, he literally was copying each shot exactly. I later went to his website and saw that every image there was something I’d seen hundreds of times.

    We’ve talked about this before, but I still maintain there’s some room for the icons in landscape photography. They’re icons for good reason, and they play a role in inspiring future generations of conservationists and advocates. But, as Ed Abbey (and your father, I’m sure) would have advocated, there is tremendous value in striking your own path across the slickrock, the forest, or the beach, until you find something completely unexpected and beautiful.

    I hope I’m going in that direction in my own photography.

  7. Greg Russell says:

    To clarify: I definitely didn’t think what that guy in JTNP was doing was worthwhile in a creative sense at all, but if that’s what he enjoyed, then more power to him.

    However, I don’t think there’s harm in photographing an icon every once in a while…

    Hope my point was clear. Re-reading my comment, I’m not sure it was.

  8. PJ, that is very well said. You must be a great blogger yourself. Thank you for your eloquent statement on the subject.

    Hi Greg, your point is clear. There is a difference between copying and photographing a scene that many photographers have done in various ways before. In the former, you are in danger of being sued, in the latter you are hopefully putting your own take on a scene that many of the greats before you have felt worthy of photographing. I am not aware of any famous landscape photographers of note having photographed Mesa Arch. I don’t see that it is such a spectacular scene or a striking composition. It sells well to the uninformed tourist masses who want an oversize postcard by which to remember their travels to the Southwest. There have been lawsuits over copying in other forms of photography, but I don’t know of any in landscape photography. All there needs to be is one well-publicized litigation and that will stop the copiers in their tracks. It is possible that the ire among legitimate professional landscape photographers toward people like the copycat you describe, slinking around Joshua Tree with images in red-handed hands, will get to the point of taking the legal step, as unfortunate and shameful as that route is.

  9. David, I have an inquiry about the photo I posted a link to to see if it had been published but I haven’t heard back yet. Have you had any luck in your inquiries?


  10. Hi Sharon, I’m glad you are looking into that at the Cline Library at Northern Arizona University. To clarify, I am not looking through any other archives of any of the Universities in Arizona, Utah or elsewhere because I don’t want to compete with you or any other contestants who may be checking it out at this very moment. Thank you for your efforts on this. What you unearthed about the colorful Alexander Brownlee and his documentary landscape photography of the area that I expounded on a few comments above this, alone has been well-worth having the contest, but I imagine there may be more interesting vintage photographers from those days that might come to the surface, we’ll see. So far Dad still stands as the undisputed first published photographer of the view into part of Canyonlands and the “Colorado River From Dead Horse Point.” I don’t intend to discourage you, well maybe a little for the sake of the contest, but I have checked with a number of veteran Southwest photographers and they have come up with nothing yet. It’s no surprise that it may take Cline Library a while to find out if that photograph of Alexander Brownlee’s was published. It has only been a few days and may take much longer than this if they have to go to sources outside the library or among other personnel or whatever as you mentioned in your e-mail. The main point that has me sort of laughing inside is that there weren’t that many places to get some lonely photograph of a wild mesa top in Southeast Utah published in 1950, but you never know, there were a few. National Parks Magazine, the regional newspapers, Living Wilderness Magazine, was Living Wilderness around yet then? I don’t know. Anyway, please do bring us updates through comments here. The suspense is making Dead Horses of us all and that’s no horsing around. Thanks again.

  11. Steve Sieren says:

    That is absolutely fantastic that your dad was possibly the first published photographer to photograph Dead Horse Point. I’m glad to know why it’s called Dead Horse Point too, thanks for sharing the information David!

  12. Hi Steve, isn’t it great? There are a number of other major points like this where Dad was there first. Ever since “Slickrock” came out, rumors have been flying about Dad being a silent ghost-like haunter of unknown Southwest canyons. I’m not kidding. Many of the rumors have been true, especially because he came back with the photographs to prove it. Tom Till, long-time resident of Moab and one of the most published landscape photographers in the world, has cited a number of locations from “Slickrock” and “Navajo Wildlands” where Dad was most probably the first to publish the photograph, or in some cases photographers like David Muench or his father Joseph Muench or Tad Nichols or this Alexander Brownlee, who none of the old-timers have known about so far. In the book “Slickrock” the head of the Sierra Club publishing program tells the story in his Foreward about Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde first meeting each other deep in the heart of Canyonlands when they were each working on the same book that became “Slickrock.” This story has been expanded on to include versions where Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde ran into each other a number of times in the back country of Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, the Escalante Wilderness and elsewhere in the wilderness of Southeast Utah.

  13. David, Cline library only searches back a few years. Doing a cursory look, they weren’t able to find any publication of Alexander Brownlee’s work.


  14. Hi Sharon, thank you for that piece of the puzzle. That’s why none of the photographers had ever heard of him. Seems very strange that Northern Arizona University would want his photographs in that case, but he was an academic and there were some nice photographs, many of them worth publication, I thought. OK, well, so far you have earned half a print, Sharon. Fortunately in this game I won’t sound a loud buzzer and say, “Thanks for playing,” and escort you off stage. I sound a loud buzzer and say, “Better luck next time, try again.” Thank you so much for your efforts. By the way, another colorful fact about Alexander Brownlee, rather staining as I see it, is that he gave expert testimony saying that cigarettes were not bad for people when they were first scrutinized from a scientific standpoint. Not exactly the guy you want as a poster boy for your beautiful desert lands, but he did have some decent images, there’s no doubt.

  15. Steve Sieren says:

    David, this gets one thinking, if Till and Muench were running into your dad in the back country it may have helped push them further into the back country making them better photographers. That what competition usually brings.

  16. Hi Steve, word was that my father and Edward Abbey kept running into each other in the back country. Dad didn’t run into Tom Till or David Muench in the back country. Tom Till told me that he ran into my dad only once and that was in the restroom, of all places, in a KOA campground near Flagstaff. They went outside the restroom and had a nice visit that evening. Tom Till said that was the only time they ever met. He had been scheduled to take a workshop with Dad at one point, but the workshop was canceled. As far as I know, Dad never met David Muench. It is possible that Dad’s frequenting the back country and all of the rumors of him running into Edward Abbey, spurned David Muench on to explore and photograph the back country more. Early in his career some photographers knew David Muench, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as the “roadside landmark photographer.” He may have gotten wind of this moniker because I read somewhere that later in his career he became a very energetic backpacker and hiker. Much of this stuff is conjecture on my part. I don’t know much about David Muench or his life and work. I have had numerous people say he was a very kind and generous man. Dad and I called him one time near the end of Dad’s life because I was calling a number of leading landscape photographers to see if they had anything to say against my claiming that Dad participated in more environmental campaigns than any other photographer. The conversation with David Muench was one of the most friendly and interesting of the calls. Robert Glenn Ketchum never even returned our call, but he was in the process of coming out with a book that aligned him with Eliot Porter and I suppose he didn’t need to be friends with Philip Hyde. On the other hand, Tom Till is an acknowledged devotee and fan of Dad and his photography. Dad’s photography in the back country probably inspired and motivated Tom Till on many levels, as it did many photographers of that generation, who have been quite vocal and prolific in writing about Dad’s inspiration.

  17. Guy Tal says:

    David, I don’t know if this was ever published but it is from 1953:,%20R.G.%20030

    By the way, when looking for firsts in the southwest, always start by searching for work by E.O. Beaman. He was John Wesley Powell’s photographer so anything by him is likely a first. From there you can usually find links to other vintage work.

  18. Hello Guy, Many thanks for bringing another historical photograph into the discussion. Good tip about researching images from the Southwest too. I realize you aren’t that big on contests usually, but if you would like to be the first official winner, to earn your print, you need to find out if that 1953 R.D. Luedke photograph of Dead Horse Point was published before Dad’s was in 1969. I have also discovered another black and white photograph that was made AND published before Dad’s. It has a wonderful story behind it that I plan to write as a follow-up to this blog post. However, for a while I will wait to see if anyone else can find any others. Remember that more than one winner is possible (see rules above). It is interesting to note that none of the early photographs anywhere near the time of Dad’s image are in color. Those that are earlier or around the time of Dad’s photograph were all made on black and white film. It is possible that Dad’s photograph was still a first: it may come out that his was the first COLOR photograph of Dead Horse Point.

  19. Hello, Lee. Despite bad reproduction quality, both of those appear to have been published. However, only one is of the view that Dad photographed. I cannot count any number of random images made at Dead Horse Point. Still, it appears you are a winner. Please email me your phone and shipping information. Thank you for your contribution.

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