Horseshoe Bend, USA – ‘Look Before You Leap’ (09.06.19)

The approach to Horseshoe Bend is tame. One minute you are strolling through the flat, arid Arizona desert, where the horizon stretches wide all around you, with no more than the overhead sun to worry about. The next minute you’re lying flat on your stomach, pulse pounding, adrenaline coursing through you, with only your nose poking over the edge of a sheer drop into a gorge 1,300m (4,200ft) below.

Cut out of the desert expanse like a giant hidden sink, this is one of north America’s most stunning natural landscapes.

From the edge of the precipice on which you suddenly find yourself, the grandeur and size of the gorge below is dumbfounding. The giant horseshoe-shaped basin, carved out by millions of years of erosion, is circled by the sky-mirroring Colorado River, which majestically sweeps around the sheer cliff walls like a fairytale jade stone ring.

The minute riverbank walkers and fleck-sized boats appear like dust on a grand-standing oil canvas masterpiece. I defy you not to gawp as you soak up the enormity of the humongous drop in this outlandish desert-scape.

When I first visited, after trotting along the desert path I spent what felt like the whole day flat on my stomach, wow-gazing with my palms firmly pressed into the supporting rock shelf. Wholly unprepared for what lay below, I was quite frankly awestruck.

But you have to mind how you go. There is little warning for what lies ahead.

There have been many terrible accidents as visitors, often seeking the ultimate selfie, jumping from rock to rock, have plunged to their deaths. This is similar to a host of similar tourist deaths in the region. The Grand Canyon saw four clifftop plummeting fatalities in April this year alone.

Grand Canyon

However, if you are careful with your step, obeying your instinct to stand back from the edge, you can marvel at this wonderful sight without fear of falling.

Horseshoe Bend is easily accessible, near Page, 8kms from the impressive Glen Canyon Dam, just off Route 89.  You can park in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area car park and walk the gentle trail to the edge in under half an hour.

Go as soon as you can though. The world of selfies and social media snap shots are catapaulting Horseshoe Bend out to a worldwide audience like never before, leading to the construction of the recently proposed, and widely welcomed, US$750K viewing platform  with safety railings, scheduled for completion shortly.

As close a snap as I was prepared to get.