Harsh, But Beautiful – Painted Desert

Harsh Beauty in the Painted Desert

Harsh Beauty of the Painted Desert © 2010 Bo Mackison

A portion of the Painted Desert is located within the boundaries of Petrified Forest National Park located near the eastern border of Arizona. The  Painted Desert gets its name from the amazing, varied colors of rock – reds, oranges, pinks, lavenders, grays. This photograph was taken in October, and rain had recently passed through the region. The badlands I remembered from an earlier August visit were no longer brown and lifeless, but popping with a multitude of green plants and yellow flowers.

View from Painted Desert Inn

Painted Desert © 2010 Bo Mackison

The area is covered by the geological Chinle formation which is a soft layer of earth consisting mainly of mud, sandstone, and volcanic ash. The texture of the soft rock is easily eroded and staining by water flows and mineral deposits leaves remarkable colors.

Painted Desert VII

Painted Desert VII © 2010 Bo Mackison

This is a designated wilderness area — hiking only a few hundred yards away from the main road provides for feelings of both exhilaration and desolation.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Utterly expansive and seemingly limitless. Beautiful photo.

  2. Beautiful photos. I’d really love to visit this area someday.

  3. Excellent shots of the area Bo! I’d love to spend the month of February there!

  4. Absolutely breathtaking. I can see why it’s called the ‘painted’ desert. Such rich..gorgeous colors!

  5. Joanne Keevers says:

    Incredible photos, Bo. This area has me totally fascinated and I’m wondering what the climate is like in this area. Do they experience extreme heat during the summer?

  6. Bo, I love your photographs of the Painted Desert. The second vertical is breathtaking. (I am fond of verticals.) When I visit this part of the country, I am immediately calm. It’s like nothing I can see in the Midwest or when I am back East. Beautiful.

Leave a Reply