As featured in Moab Happenings, March, 2016
Photographing the Red Rocks Country
La Sal Mountains Offer a Different
Range of Photo Opportunities
By David L. Brown
When we think of photo subjects in the Moab area, our minds first go to red rock cliffs, winding rivers and soaring arches. But raise your eyes and you will see a whole different world just a few miles away. Throughout the year, the La Sal Mountains provide a scenic backdrop to the Red Rocks country.
As Spring arrives, these lovely peaks are still covered with snow, but soon they will emerge as aspen trees and wildflowers take center stage for a new season. I’ve found that my photo tour clients love to visit the high country, whether in spring or fall. And in the summer, when temperatures rise, the cool mountain air offers a pleasant refuge.
The La Sals contain no less than twelve peaks that rise to more than 12,000 ft. above the surrounding Colorado Plateau. The highest is Mt. Peale, reaching 12,721 ft. Although they may sometimes appear to be of volcanic origin, the mountains were formed by the intrusion of igneous rock 25-28 million years ago and the later erosion of surrounding sedimentary rock.
I have several favorite spots in the La Sals. One of the best is along the graded road leading up from the La Sal Loop to Warner Campground, home to a natural mountain lake located at 9200 ft. seen below, surrounded by aspen groves and overlooked by mountain peaks. The campground is a favorite retreat by in-the-know locals who come here to escape the summer heat. You may be able to photograph fly fisherman working the trout-filled lake, and mountain reflections make the place come alive through your lens.
The road to Warner Lake passes through meadows where wildflowers grow in profusion, such as shown below. Kelli Price, one of my clients from last year, asked me to take her picture among blooming mule’s ears. Named for the shape of their leaves, these plants bloom in early June in the high country of the La Sals.
The next photo shows another example of the high country in bloom, a field of wild iris. The image was captured near Warner Lake around the first day of summer last year. In a week or so the iris blooms were gone, replaced by succeeding waves of different wildflowers, each taking their turn in the sun.
Another fascinating location in the La Sals is located around the north end of the range, along the road that leads to Gateway, CO. Here among towering Ponderosa pines you can enjoy amazing views from above Fisher Valley and see mysterious dinosaur tracks where giants walked over 100 million years ago. The Forest Service recently improved the site with a paved parking lot, vault toilet and an informational display. At left is one of the dino prints, made by an early relative of Tyrannosaur Rex. Follow the road through Castle Valley and keep going straight for five miles past the La Sal Loop road turnoff.
One of the highlights of the year in the La Sals is when the aspens put on their golden show. There are many groves at a wide range of altitudes, so the color display goes on for quite some time, starting at the higher altitudes and moving steadily downward. Here’s a photo made along one of the improved forest roads.
There is nothing like the feeling of crisp mountain air and the chance to photograph the changing patterns of the seasons. There are many more aspects to these nearby mountains, and many subjects for your camera. If you haven’t already discovered this wonderland, you have a treat in store.
David L. Brown lives in Moab where he leads photo tours and workshops. His website is at www.imagequest.photo and he can be reached at 435-210-8158.