Kodachrome Basin State Park

Driving Through America’s Southwest – Day 4

Southwest Trip: Day 4 – Kodachrome Basin State Park

We had to make radical changes to our plans during Day Four of our driving trip to the southwest.

It was a day of both disappointment and excitement.

When we drove from the Vermillion Cliffs to the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, we had two goals. First, we wanted to dedicate one full day to explore Bryce Canyon, which we managed to complete on Day Three. Our second goal was to drive the Cottonwood dirt road from Bryce Canyon through the heart of Escalante back to the Vermillion Cliffs.

We wanted to spend a couple of days in the Coral Dunes State Park campground. 

It was impossible to accomplish our second goal.

Due to rainy weather the previous few days, the Cottonwood road was closed. Since most of the dirt roads in southern Utah consist of clay, they become unpassable when they are wet regardless of the type of car you drive.

Kodachrome Basin State Park - Southwest Trip: Day 4 1
Kodachrome Basin State Park. Panorama Trail

The scenic Cottonwood Road is 80km long with the first 15km paved. The rest is a twisty dirt road made of sand and clay. We decided to drive along the paved part to see if we could find something worth exploring and photographing. This was when we made the biggest discovery of our entire trip. We stumbled upon an area with a strange name – Kodachrome Basin State Park.

It is a relatively small region surrounded from the north, east, and west by spectacular cliffs in a stunning combination of red, white, and pink hues. Plus, over 60 sand pipes are randomly erected throughout the area. The signature sand pipe that defines the basin’s appearance is 50m tall and is visible from a great distance.

Kodachrome Basin State Park - Southwest Trip: Day 4 2
Kodachrome Basin. Sand Pipe
Kodachrome Basin State Park - Southwest Trip: Day 4 3
Kodachrome Basin. Ballerina Spire

After spending a few hours hiking in the park, I realized that the Kodachrome Basin is a goldmine of opportunities for any photographer. I knew I absolutely needed more time there.

This was when we made the most significant change to our itinerary. We abandoned our plans to return to the Vermillion Cliffs area and, instead, we spent the next three days in the Kodachrome Basin.

Related: California Landscapes and Seascapes

We were lucky to score the only available spot in the park’s campground. We loved the Kodachrome experience so much that, for our next trip to Utah four months later, we made the park our headquarters for the entire trip. We reserved the camping spot in the park for 10 days and spent over a week driving the dirt roads and exploring southern Utah’s beautiful backcountry. 

Kodachrome Basin State Park - Southwest Trip: Day 4 4
The Chimney Rock. The original name of the park was The Chimney Rock State Park.

Name Origin 

The name of the area has its origin in 1947 when National Geographic photographers visited the area and featured it in the magazine the following year. They named it after a new brand of film made by Kodak that defined color film photography.

The Kodachrome brand was the first color film made commercially available to the general public.

Related: Exploring Antelope Canyon in Page (Arizona)

The name, however, does not sit well with me. It bothers me. It does not make any sense to name a natural wonder after modern brand names. As a photographer, I understand the importance of Kodak in defining photography and the role Kodachrome played in the origin of color photography, but naming the basin after Kodachrome does not seem appropriate.

Only 70 years later, the name Kodak reveals a shortsighted significance and an unwillingness to embrace modern photography, which makes it irrelevant. It is like renaming Yosemite after Adobe Photoshop because of Photoshop’s role in revolutionizing photography in the last 20 years.

But, I guess an even worse scenario would be to name a natural wonder after Microsoft Windows.

What do you think about the name Kodachrome? Does it bother you? Leave your comments below. 

Kodachrome Basin State Park - Southwest Trip: Day 4 5
Kodachrome Basin. Sand Pipe
Kodachrome Basin State Park - Southwest Trip: Day 4 6
Kodachrome Basin State Park - Southwest Trip: Day 4 7
Kodachrome Basin State Park - Southwest Trip: Day 4 8
Kodachrome Basin State Park - Southwest Trip: Day 4 9

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by Viktor Elizarov
I am a travel photographer and educator from Montreal, Canada, and a founder of PhotoTraces. I travel around the world and share my experiences here. Feel free to check my Travel Portfolio and download Free Lightroom Presets.

5 thoughts on “Kodachrome Basin State Park – Southwest Trip: Day 4”

  1. It gives you the nice bright colors, the green green greens of summer. Don’t take my Kodachrome away! Lovely shots, looks like u really got around the area. Can you rate the actual hiking you did? Moderate, easy, advanced?

    • spectacular hikes but all of them can be rated as easy or moderate/easy.

  2. When it all comes down to facts the area is more colorful than Kodachrome and that is reality!


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