“Church Rock”

Church Rock, near Lisbon Valley, SE Utah (c) Mike Utley

D49-1(S)–Church Rock, near Lisbon Valley, SE Utah
Church Rock is a unique sandstone formation located a few miles north of Monticello in southeast Utah. It’s a local icon of sorts, readily visible just off the highway. In 1998, I was commissioned by a local museum to photograph old barns in San Juan County, Utah, and Church Rock was on the list. In the 1940s, the land owner used dynamite to hollow-out a section at the base to use for storage for cattle feed. Visible in this image are the remnants of an old corral and a dilapidated windmill to show the scale of the rock formation, which rises 200 feet above the surrounding desert landscape. The weather the day this image was made was windy and the clouds were magnificent and added texture and contrast to the earthy tones of Church Rock. As for its name, the local myth is that in the 1930s a spiritualist and her small cult deemed San Juan County, Utah and Church Rock to be the spiritual center of the universe, and she ordered the complete hollowing-out of Church Rock to serve as her church. The 16’x24′ hollow section was thought to be proof of this but was proven false. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

33 thoughts on ““Church Rock”

    1. Thanks a bunch, Grace. I agree–the colors here are so dynamic and I love those clouds, too. They lend a 3D aspect to the rock formation. I always appreciate your constant and kind support, Grace! So glad you like this one. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Diana. I really wish I knew more about the geology of the Colorado Plateau. It’s a fascinating region, as you know, filled with canyons, towers, arches, buttes and all sorts of flora and fauna. As for the “center of the universe” thing, I wish someone had told me this when I was a kid growing up in San Juan County, UT. Nearby Dove Creek, Colorado used to have a big sign on the edge of town declaring it “The Pinto Bean Capital of the World.” How was I to know that just 22 miles away in Utah was the “Center of the Universe?!” Oh boy! πŸ˜€

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Such a great photograph, my friend Mike. And I love the story behind the structure’s name. You were really batting a thousand in photography. I appreciate you effort and skills in capturing such memorable and wonderful pictures. πŸ€—

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you kindly, Lamittan! Your always-positive reviews are so encouraging and appreciated. I’m so glad my nature photography has gone over so well so far because I originally began posting my images due to experiencing my current bout of crippling writer’s block–I wanted to make sure I kept posting something until the words return. I’m so happy you enjoy these photos, and I hope they inspire viewers as much as they inspire me. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Jane! I sincerely appreciate your wonderful words and support. It means so much to me to know people connect with my images (and writing, too). Your kindness is priceless. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. this stunningly masterpiece of photographic work is a perfect cover image for books or magazines of different themes. Church is one of them. another one could be a bell, still another one could be “a buried face” which is inspiring my of a poem of the same title ” a buried face”….. Your work is a constant source of inspiration for my writing! thank you Mike!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for your always positive and supportive comments! I’m so glad to know you find inspiration from my posts. It’s a humbling feeling and I appreciate it so much. I’m excited to read the poem you’re working on. πŸ™‚


        (inspired by fellow blogger Mike’s photographic piece)

        sandstorm suspended

        like a jet stealth suddenly went invisible

        art begins to emerge:

        long hair is tied up into a bun

        above the desert. body temperature

        flushes in the tip edge of a pretty scarf

        before the sun turns around

        the train begins to read the tunnel wall.

        with the help of a landscape painter’s dictionary

        an unpronounceable language is being translated

        skiing from the slopes of the ears,

        muffled shouts of excitements

        came out between the two skis of lips.

        beyond the horizon of the eyes, light is sleepwalking

        the flag flutters on a sunken shell

        the prop mask is pushing open the skylight of a lake

        underground palaces use man-made light for

        checking the rotten teeth of the buildings above

        Liked by 2 people

    2. What a glorious poem! As always, your surrealistic imagery is incredibly contemplative and vivid. It’s fascinating what you can do with a simple photograph, how this speaks to you and inspires you. Thanks so much for posting this here. I’m always delighted to experience your unique perspectives on the world, and I’m honored that you’d find inspiration in my photography. Much appreciated! πŸ™‚


    1. Thanks, Xenia. During that commission assignment I was able to see parts of the county I’d never visited before and photographed some “normal” barns along the way, too! There’s nothing quite like a wide-open desert sky–it seems so expansive–and the clouds can have such varied personalities depending on weather, time of day, and season. It’s a very expressive area. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kirsten. Yep, this rock is a lot bigger up-close than it appears from the highway. The spiritualist was named Marie Ogden and she had a small community of a handful of buildings not too far from Church Rock which she referred to as Home of Truth. During my commission to photograph barns in the county, I was given permission to photograph some of the old buildings in the community, which by that point were nothing but deserted weather-aged shacks. Here’s a link for more info if you’re curious (and there’s some sordid stuff, too):


      Honestly, I didn’t know a lot of the details of this cult until I did some research today. When I did the barn shoot, I was told the commune had something to do with some strange group of people decades prior, but man, this is full-blown weirdness. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mark. Glad to know you like this stuff. As I mentioned to Kirsten above, the cult was pretty strange, and all of this occurred about 45 minutes from the farm on which I was raised. I suppose the desert has its secrets, eh? I appreciate your kind comments and support, good sir! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sandstone looks like it’s posing for you. It looks mighty grand and proud of itself. Love the rich golden color and the sky captured in that deep blue. Imagine hollowing it out. That’s something I can’t even contemplate. You took a great shot, Mike. Congratulations! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Terveen. Yes, Church Rock was an agreeable subject that day despite the strong winds! πŸ™‚ As for hollowing out rocks, it’s happened before in this area. There’s an attraction a few miles north of Church Rock called Hole in the Rock. It’s a 5,000 square-foot home-turned-tourist-attraction hollowed out of a sandstone rock formation. It took 12 years to excavate. You can see some photos here: https://www.countryliving.com/life/travel/a43809/hole-in-the-rock-moab-utah/

      I suppose some people are visionaries…and other people just like to live in holes in rocks. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  4. rajkkhoja

    I visited your site. I can read & watch you blog. I can read your biography. I can shok read it. But you good & strong. Very well do you doing. Beautiful written you blo.
    Wonderful photography. Amazing capture nature picture. I like nature picture. Iam so happy.πŸ™

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, rajkkhoja, for your kind words. I’m so glad you enjoy my words and photos. I truly appreciate your nice comments and I’m grateful that you’ve stopped by my blog to visit. I appreciate it so much. Thanks again. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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