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How to photograph the San Juan River's double goosenecks at Utah's Goosenecks State Park

View of the double gooseneck at gooseneck state park in Utah

The “goosenecks” are a double series of tight loops carved by the San Juan over 300 million years as it flowed to the confluence with the Colorado River over 50 miles to the west of here.

The San Juan flows back and forth for 6 miles over this 1 1/2 mile area, and geologists consider this double gooseneck to be one of the finest examples of “entrenched meanders” you can see anywhere in the world. 
Goosenecks State Park
The viewpoint
The San Juan river is also not easy to see or access in Utah, so this state park located on the canyon rim with a perfect viewpoint built overlooking the goosenecks is something you don’t want to miss.
The state park is not very large, it consists mostly of a couple of dirt roads along the canyon edge where you will see a lot of RVs camping, the large parking area, and the viewpoint facing the goosenecks with the river 1000 feet below.
Gooseneck state park map

Photo Notes and tips for the Goosenecks

  • The overlook is facing southwest. Facing the goosenecks, the sun rises to your left and sets to your right
  • The best times to shoot the goosenecks is early morning or close to sunset. Too early or too late and the river and canyon walls are in full shadow. At mid day the sun is directly over the canyon and your shots will lack definition and texture
  • Shooting a stitched panorama is the preferred method to get the wide double gooseneck into one picture
  • At sunrise, you’ll have to wait 1-2 hours to get light into the canyon, for sunset you will want to arrive a couple of hours before it sets
  • Most people will shoot from the viewpoint wall –  however, there is a small notch on the right-hand side of the overlook, this gives you access to the benches below you under the viewpoint and a better-unobstructed view of the goosenecks to photograph
  • That inverted “V” of land in the foreground you see in photographs of the goosenecks can not be totally eliminated. The canyon walls stair-step all the way down to the river. If you walk down to the bench below the viewpoint there will be another “V” below you and so on if you keep descending to the next bench, and again and again.
24 hours
$5 per car
Getting there
From Bluff, drive west on Highway 163 for 20 miles, turn right onto Highway 261, continue for 1 mile, left on Highway 316 (look for the sign for Goosenecks State Park)

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