If you’ve ever sat in a window seat on a long plane ride and had to spend most of the flight looking out the window to give your neighbor in the middle some extra room, then you’ve probably seen some good examples of meandering rivers. When a river loses speed as it flows downhill, it tends to flow back and forth, making lazy S-shaped curves across the landscape. From above, the land between the loops looks like goosenecks. Staring at a lazy river from 30,000 feet might be only slightly better than having a stranger put his head on your shoulder as he naps, but seeing a massive gooseneck up close, like the ones at Goosenecks State Park in Utah, is a thrill.
The park is in the southeastern part of the state about 29 miles southwest of Bluff, Utah. Karen and I were there on a chilly day in November when the river, a thousand feet below, was slow and mocha-colored. Standing at the overlook, we quickly realized there is no way to capture all three goosenecks in a single photo without a wide-angle lens. I’ve included in this post a public domain photo from Wikimedia showing the entire panoramic view. There’s also a video at the end of this post that Karen took showing the view from the overlook.
Large goosenecks are not uncommon in the southwestern U.S. however, many are in remote locations and difficult to reach. Horseshoe Bend, just south of Page, Arizona is one of the best examples of an entrenched meander. That’s the technical term for a gooseneck when they occur on a large scale, but I can’t bring myself to use the phrase “entrenched meander” in conversation. No, they’re goosenecks, regardless of what the interpretive signs say.
Looking over the cliffs at the goosenecks formed by the San Juan River and camping along the rim in one of the eight designated sites are the only two things to do in the park. While the view is impressive, it doesn’t take much time to soak in the scenery. And unless you’re camping there, you’ll be in and out of the park in less than an hour. Fortunately, there are several other fascinating natural wonders close by, and in combination, they make for a great day of sightseeing. Valley of the Gods, Monument Valley, and the Moki-Dugway switchbacks of Highway 261 are all a short drive from Goosenecks State Park and worth seeing as well.