Starry Night in the False Kiva

Mark Epstein Photography | Starry Night in the False Kiva

The magnificent beauty of the night sky photographed from the giant window of False Kiva in Canyonlands National Park in eastern Utah. The park preserves a colorful landscape eroded into countless canyons, mesas and buttes by the Colorado River and its tributaries. The America Southwest is home to thousands of caves that were once home for millenniums of various Indian cliff dwellers. Few are as hauntingly beautiful as False Kiva, given its name for the round stone circle structure. The hidden cave sits half way down a mesa cliff and has a stunning view of rock formations in Canyonlands.

The site is called “False Kiva” because people falsely believed the main round structure is a kiva or ceremonial room. While located in a naturally occurring cave, the name False Kiva arises from the uncertainty around the circle of stones’ origins and purpose, not whether it is really an authentic kiva. These structures were common shelters for ancestral Puebloan people living in the area around A.D. 1200. Partial excavation and stabilization of the big structure in 1986 showed it was only used for daily activities like cooking and sleeping. The absence of a midden or garbage area indicates the site was only occupied for a short time, although the presences of the storage cists indicate that foods were stored there.

False Kiva is officially a Class II site, which means that the location may only be disclosed by the park rangers to the public when “visitors request the information by site name, photograph, or description.” This archaeological site is not on the official maps. If you care to visit stop by the park visitors center and ask and they will show you photos of where to be careful on the trail so you have a better chance of finding it.