Rainbow Canyon, Death Valley National Park

Rainbow Canyon, Death Valley National Park

Star Wars Canyon

Shaka Guide

Looking good out there, folks. We’re just gonna drive through this little baby canyon for a minute. Now, did you know there’s a canyon here in the park called Star Wars Canyon? If you entered the park from the west, then you’ve already passed it! And if you think the canyon got its name because they filmed the movies there, I’ve got news for you: none of the Star Wars movies were filmed in Star Wars Canyon. Kinda false advertising, doncha think? 

Well, here’s the thing. That canyon’s name is actually Rainbow Canyon, because of the colorful rocks visible from the overlook. Since WWII, the United States Air Force and Navy have used the canyon as a training space for low-altitude flying. In other words, pilots maneuvered their fighter jets in a tight trench going as fast as 300 miles per hour. Sound familiar? Kinda sounds like Luke Skywalker flying his X-wing through the trenches of the Death Star.

But really, the movie we should be thinking of is Top Gun. In that movie, Maverick is a Naval Aviator. If he and his friends were real people, they would’ve likely trained in a place like Star Wars Canyon. For fighter pilots, low-altitude flights avoid enemy anti-aircraft missiles and radar. So that training is really important. Use the force, Maverick!

The canyon used to be a popular place for photographers, hoping to capture the jets in action. Unfortunately, an accident in 2019 killed a pilot and injured a number of tourists. Since then, use of the canyon for training has been suspended. But, things might change. Maybe someday, Star Wars Canyon will once again witness the roar of fighter jets, training for their next mission.

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