I remember a couple of years ago, the first time I visited False Kiva, a man-made stone circle of unknown origins in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. I had seen some amazing photos online and thought it looked like such an exceptional place that I just had have to go and see for myself. I hiked in just before sunset, and had a plan to wait until nightfall and photograph the kiva with the Milky Way in the background. I sat down to wait for darkness, but unfortunately my eyes closed on me and I fell asleep… When I woke up several hours later clouds had rolled in and boy was it dark. I’ll never forget the feeling of tranquillity when sitting in complete silence gazing into the dark desert night. Awesome! The photographic outcome was quite meagre though, and I hiked out with nothing to show for but a few test shots.
This photo is from my second visit to False Kiva, back in September 2013. This time I didn’t fall asleep though, and the photographic outcome was much better: The constellation of Sagittarius and the center of our own galaxy rising up over the south horizon. The streak to the right is a shooting star! Nikon D300 w/Tokina 11-16mm @ 11 mm, f2.8, ISO 1600, 30 seconds. Shot in JPEG and post processed in GIMP.
Kivas were sites used in religious rituals by the Pueblo people, but as the name implies it is not known whether False Kiva was ever used as an actual kiva. It is nonetheless considered an archeological site and therefore enjoys a semi-protected status under federal law. The site is only short hike off the road leading to Upheaval Dome, but in order to avoid vandalism and excessive wear the site is not marked in official maps. The rangers at The Island in the Sky Visitor Center will however provide you with hiking directions upon request. The hike is only 45 minutes each way, but it can be somewhat difficult. Finding and following the trail from the road is the hardest part. If you weir off trail you can easily end up on top of the cliff directly above False Kiva having to back-track to find where the path descends. I’m speaking from my own experience here, as that happened both times I’ve been there. The descent down to the kiva is steep and rocky, and the ascent can be somewhat strenuous, so be careful. And of course, be sure to bring a flashlight if you plan on staying until dark.