Death valley – midday copper & StarWars !

This is already my forth post about the Death Valley, and I have another one coming up.

It was just really THAT good … This was my first proper desert, and I really felt enchanted. I loved everything about it – so vast, open and hot. Usually this would not be my description of the perfect landscape, as I am climber, and I kind of need things to go up or get on to … But this felt different.

It felt that I can rest in the vastness, clear my head and feel as I can breath with no one watching.

We started the day with the Zabriskie point during sunrise.

Then continued through the roads of Death Valley to Devil’s golf field and the lowest point in North America – Badwater. We also visited Golden Canyon and Artists’ drive that I will talk about here.

Endurance fun in the Death Valley

Then proceeded up the road towards other famous sites. When you are next to Furnace Creek village, everything is relatively close, and there were a lot of people cycling up and around the area. There are just a few lonely roads, crossing the massive Death Valley flats, and it would definitely make for a highly meditative ride.

There is an 135 mile ultra-marathon through the Death Valley called the Badwater Ultramarathon. It is considered one of the toughest races on earth, and I can easily understand why … Crossing massive dry flats in heat for 135 miles… should be something else. If that doesn’t calm you down, nothing will. I would love to do this race someday … *putting it on my list

Star Wars Death Valley

Apparently Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope and Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi had scenes filmed in the Death Valley! That’s pretty epic ! And lame for me that I didn’t know at the time I was there! Apparently many people go there just for finding movie scene locations and taking photos in costume. Damn, my Sand Dune skiing photos would have been so much better if I wore a jedi cloak.

Anyways, lucky enough, we made enough pictures to find some matching/nearby movie locations 🙂

These guys did a great job finding original movie scene filming locations, taking pictures and posting them next to movie shots:

I’m borrowing some of their photos they posted from Star Wars to match with my own photos (post-taking pictures, so not perfect matches, just (almost) same locations). (Note:  All movie photos and the link yo youtube video contained on this page are copyright Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm Ltd. and are used for matching purposes only.)

Golden Canyon (Star Wars Jawa Canyon)

Our first stop was the Golden Canyon or Jawa Canyon in Star Wars, where some R2-D2 scenes were filmed. So exciting ! Check out a short exert from the movie here:

Below you will see a mixture of movie imagery and the photos I’ve taken 🙂 and some details about the Golden Jawa Canyon.


R2-D2 in the Jawa canyon from the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

It’s a 2miles long narrow rock canyon waving towards the Zabriskie point and branching into smaller paths, passages and caves. Golden Canyon’s colorful walls consists of layers and layers of diverse sedimentary rocks. Massive boulders and tiny salts and silt pieces all cemented together into a messy conglomerate.

Jawa canyon from Star Wars IV
Entering the Golden Canyon – narrow steep irregular walls

As you enter the canyon, you can see disintegrated paved road leading inside. Apparently in 1976 Death Valley got 4 days of rain storms followed by massive floods. As the water was moving down the mountains and through the canyons, it was also carrying tons of mud and debris, and in the narrow openings of the Golden Canyon it was flowing in such violent rapids that the paved road did not have a chance.

R2-D2 in Jawa Canyon

I love this concept of man-made structures not standing a chance against powerful nature forces; maybe it should teach us some respect and appreciation?


Layering of sediments is diagonal indicating some dynamic geologic forces that affected the area; these tilted rocks are a part of a giant fold that formed due to crustal stretching

The steepness of the walls of the canyon and the narrowness of its passages indicates that the uplift of the mountains in the area was relatively recent and the canyon is very young. Also, layering of sediments is diagonal indicating some dynamic geologic forces that affected the area; these tilted rocks are a part of a giant fold that formed due to crustal stretching (see image above).

Beautiful red eyes from Star Wars IV
Probably very close to where the Jawas were hiding …

Red Cathedral of the Golden Canyon

As you make your way through the Golden Canyon, unique red cliffs appear in your sight. The conglomerate rock that makes up the formation is more resistant to erosion, and hence is still able to form cliffs. Red color is due to oxidized iron component in the rock.


It did look quite unique – a lost treasure we uncovered through desert rambles. Luckily I had my explorer hat on.


Some rock examples below from up-close. When you look to the canyon and many of the Death Valley formations from far away, they all seem quite uniform, but as you look closer, the variety is incredible. All the patterns, colors and consistencies you could imagine.


R2D2 hangs out at the Artist’s Drive

Some scenes from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope were filmed here. In these scenes we see R2D2 traveling along, eventually getting into trouble and getting zapped by the Jawas.



Artist’s drive was quite crazy. I mean, just wow ! It’s a one way road, taking a total of around 30 min to get through, when driving slow. It took as 2.5 hours, as we stopped at every bloody corner, and stayed for over an hour in one of the spots. It’s a narrow one way road waving through narrow canyons, odd mountain shapes, formations and an amazing play of colors (see images below) …


Below you can see a match between the Star Wars R2-D2 scene, and where we set for over an hour chilling, and me painting.

Image from Star Wars with R2-D2


The right side of the wall of the upper image would extend with the image below – the Artist’s palette.


Photo of my painting spot

We were there around 1pm, and apparently the best time to take the Artist’s palette drive is in the late afternoon, as the setting sun makes all the colors even more intense.


In the next (last) post about the Death Valley, we’ll get up to Dante’s view peak.

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