Kodachrome Basin and the Power of Photography

Kodak released its first roll of colored film in 1936 called “Kodachrome.” This film became famous for its new method of producing color in still photography. Its use became widespread among National Geographic photographers, eventually leading to global awareness of the beauty of Southern Utah’s rust colored landscape.

In 1948, a group of National Geographic photographers, led by Jack Breed, set out to explore the Southern Utah terrain. Using trails only having ever been passed in modern times by a handful of cattle ranchers, Breed and his crew found a landscape that was relatively untouched. Traveling by car and hiking into more rugged regions, the National Geographic explorers found the contrasting colors of the land to be enchanting. The explorers nicknamed the area “Kodachrome Flat” after the film used to capture the rust colored canyons. Photos taken of the area were later published in a 1949 edition of National Geographic magazine, which had 60 million readers. 

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who lived in the region were highlighted in the article as well as the landscape. Dressed in pioneer clothing, Breed photographed them recreating a traditional Latter-Day Saint dance in the Kodachrome area, perhaps using the peculiarity to catch readers’ attention. Before the photos were published in the magazine, they were shown to local members of the Lions Club at the Cameron Hotel in Panguitch. Crew member Burnett Hendryx spoke of the National Geographic team’s adventures in the desert. The invitation to view Hendryx’s photos was then extended to the general public who marveled at the color photographs.. This expedition was of great interest to the local residents of Garfield County, not only for the excitement the National Geographic visit sparked in local newspapers, but also because the highly publicized article brought tourists to the county, boosting its isolated economy. 

Although originally named Chimney Rock State Park due to copyright issues, the area today is officially known as Kodachrome Basin State Park. It sits in a quiet location between Bryce Canyon and Escalante National Park and is home to a plethora of campsites and hiking trails. It continues to be a tourist site, especially popular among foreigners. The park hosted a total of 179,121 visitors in 2022 and its popularity continues to grow. 

Images

My Beautiful Picture
My Beautiful Picture Source:

Nikater. My Beautiful Picture. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. Utah, May 10, 2012. Wikimedia Commons. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kodachrome_Basin08.jpg  

Kodachrome Basin 09
Kodachrome Basin 09 Source:

Nikater. Fred Flintstone Spire. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. Utah, May 10, 2012. Wikimedia Commons. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kodachrome_Basin08.jpg.  

Kodachrome Basin
Kodachrome Basin Source:

DimiCalifornia. Kodachrome Basin.jpg. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. Utah, July 2007. Wikimedia Commons. Accessed April 18, 2023. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kodachrome_Basin.jpg.  

Location

Metadata

Jane Carlson, Brigham Young University, “Kodachrome Basin and the Power of Photography,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/772.