Rainbow Canyon California

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Father Crowley Vista Point is a viewing platform on which you can look into the Rainbow Canyon. It is located at an altitude of about 4000 meters, is called R2508 complex and is managed by the Edwards AFB. It is used for high speed training. It is located on the edge of the Death Valley National Park and if you are nearby, you should go there once; the way will be worthwhile for there is at least the fantastic landscape. From Mojave you drive about 2 hours, the canyon is located on Highway 190. The valley is located between Owens Valley in the west and Panamint Valley in the east.

If you stand at the edge of the canyon you will think – OK my 300mm lens should be more than enough – but nothing can be more wrong. You need at least 500mm with a full-format camera, otherwise the objects are quite small. There are days when you are here and you won’t see a single flyer, and then again there are days where there is really something going on!

However, you should not stay on the plateau of the Fathers Crowley, there you get only the F-15 Eagles flying from the right through the canyon, usually the jets come from the west and fly east. By car you drive further into the terrain, where you can see more, and where you can make the best photos. The second point is on Highway 190 about 5 KM further down (direction towards Las Vegas), where you can park your car and hike about 20 minutes on foot… in this position you get the fighters from the side, however you have just a very short “warning time to see the jets coming. Around 10:00 AM, the first plane enters the canyon. You can tell early on which planes are flown by experienced pilots; the good go down low and those with less flying hours just “scratch” the canyon.

The best season for visits is between October and March, in the summer months it gets quite warm there and you have to expect snakes and other nice animals. You should also take enough food and drink, the day is long, around 5:00 PM the show usually comes to an end.

Surprisingly you can see a lot of CAG Birds in the Canyon coming from NAS Lemoore or China Lake. There are also aviators from Edwards, the QRA from the March AFB and the California Air National Guard. If there are foreign detachments on one of these bases, you can also get them flying through the canyon. Typhoons and Tornadoes of the British Royal Air Force and brand-new Australian Growlers were seen here, all on detachment to China Lake.


Peter Boschert

Peter is a photographer covering events in the United States and in Europe. He likes to cover Nellis AFB, NAS Fallon and RAF Lakenheath.

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