The aerial photos in this collection were taken by Kathy Miller. On this west to east flight, Kathy was seated on the south-facing side of the plane, thus looking out to the south. The initial photo of the series is of Mono Lake and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California. Kathy found nothing of interest to photograph in Nevada and started again after crossing into Utah. She then photographed some of the best scenery in the southwestern United States, all of which is shown in the included Google Earth map.
Mono Lake lies to the east of Yosemite National Park, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California
This map is oriented with the south at the top of the map, to align with the views seen in the photographs, which were taken looking to the south. The yellow line approximates the flight path, which was over southern Utah, with views to the Utah/Arizona state line and beyond into Arizona.
A hogback known as the Cockscomb runs north to south and bisects the bottom of the photo. It is cut through by the Paria River just above the center of the photo. The Paria River then flows eastward to form the Paria Canyon, which is seen at the left edge of the photo. The Cockscomb then continues south to Coyote Buttes, which is illuminated by the sun. Coyote Buttes contains the famous rock feature known as The Wave.
Much of what is seen in the above photo was contained in the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. I say “original” because the current administration took an axe to Grand Staircase (along with Bears Ears National Monument). The administration, in other words, severely reduced the size of these two National Monuments … but we hope the courts will reverse this action.
Two minutes flying time to the east reveals Marble Canyon at upper left, and the snow-covered Kaibab Plateau at upper right. Marble Canyon is the initial stretch of the Grand Canyon, and the Kaibab Plateau makes up the elevated north rim of the Grand Canyon. The entire Paria Canyon can be seen, along with more of Grand Staircase.
One minute later the lower-most portion of Lake Powell comes into view. Paria Canyon is seen where it joins the canyon of the Colorado River, at a point 15 miles downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. The Grand Canyon begins here, at a place known as Lees Ferry.
Another minute of flight time brings Gooseneck Point into view
Less than an additional minute of flight time brings us to Dangling Rope Marina
One more minute up the lake brings twin smoke plumes from the Four Corners Power plant into view. In middle distance is Cathedral Butte, and at the bottom of the photo is snow-covered Bull Ridge, which is the southern extremity of Fiftymile Mountain. This “mountain” is actually the 33-mile long eastern edge of the vast Kaiparowits Plateau, which is bounded on the west by the Cockscomb, and is at the heart of the original Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Fiftymile Mountain is directly uphill of and parallels the Escalante River – the other major part of the National Monument. See bonus feature below.
Fiftymile Mountain, from the trailhead to Coyote Gulch, a tributary of the Escalante River
In another minute we are looking down at Navajo Mountain and Rainbow Bridge Canyon, which are located on the eastern side of Lake Powell. At this point, the plane is flying more or less over the confluence of the San Juan River with the Colorado River (although the confluence is underwater).
Two more minutes brings us into a fairly remote region, with the San Juan River more or less under the plane
Another minute to the east brings us into the area of Navajo National Monument, known for its cliff dwellings
And another minute provides a view of Black Mesa and Kayenta. Monument Valley is directly under the plane.
And five minutes later, this last photo shows Chinle Creek, which flows northward from Canon de Chelley National Monument, and the Peabody Coal Mine atop Black Mesa. This open pit coal mine supplies the Four Corners power plant via a private rail line that figures prominently in Edward Abbey’s immortal book: “The Monkey Wrench Gang”. See bonus feature next.