Update: Now that False Kiva has been closed by the National Park Service (for good reason!), I am glad that Jeremy and I made this trip back in 2010. Let’s exhort our hiking and photography enthusiasts to be more gentle with our fragile and sacred lands.
My good friend Jeremy Long and I ventured out into frozen Winter Utah to see many sights, not the least of which was Canyonlands National Park’s False Kiva ruin.
I don’t know who discovered this location, but I do know that Tom Till has the first image I ever saw from it. He is certainly the person who has made False Kiva famous.
There is no sign pointing you to False Kiva. The National Park Service does acknowledge it’s existence though, and you can get simple directions from an NPS Ranger. It is up to the individual to translate those simple directions into locating the ruin.
I don’t wish to write too much about the hike here, but it is advisable to have plenty of water and any backcountry gear in case of an emergency. While the hike is not long, you will not be close to help if you need it.
One issue I wanted to bring up is conservation and the larger photographic community. From what I have been told, False Kiva has not been the subject of archaeological study. When these happen, one of the most valuable resources is the midden. A midden is basically the landfill for Ancestral Puebloans (and other groups). Much can be learned from what the inhabitants disposed of.
At False Kiva, the midden is behind the ruin. The location is also a very tempting location for a photographer. There is a chain link across the midden asking people to not stand on it. Alas, when we visited, the chain was on the ground. Apparently, some photographers have decided to stand on it. This may ruin any archaeological value the ruin has.
I wanted to mention this to ask again that the community respect these signs and follow the rules, or there will be fewer and fewer places available to us to photograph. The location of False Kiva creates an incredible composition. Imagine if this place was closed off to people permanently.
T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.