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The Wave: Explore Arizona's Hidden Treasure Box Rippling Yet Frozen Sand Dunes

The Wave: Explore Arizona's Hidden Treasure Box Rippling Yet Frozen Sand Dunes

Formation of The Wave

The Wave is a geological marvel found on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes, at the Arizona-Utah border. People believe the formation to date back to the Jurassic period when the winds pushed the sandy desert dunes across the sandstone etching it and water runoff deposited chemicals such as iron and manganese. In the Coyote Buttes ravine, some 5,225 feet above the sea level, the Wave, is a remarkable undulating appearance, with massive sandstone, structures stretched like toffee and cinnamon color strata domes. It is a geological snapshot in time, a still shot of the effect natural forces have on the environment.

The resulting bands of color are referred to as the Leisegang rings, named after a German chemist. Swirled bands of color run through the sandstone, ranging from red, pink, orange, yellow, green, and white. The Wave was formed 190 million years ago when the desert dunes compacted and solidified into stripped sandstone. The peculiar and unique fluctuating stratum was created by slow wind and rain erosion. It was virtually unknown until the 1990s came into view after its extensive advertisement in various German travel brochures, and featured in the 1996 movie Faszination Natur. Navajo Sandstone dunes, calcified, hardened, compacted and lying both vertically and horizontally is the primary component of the Wave. Small groups of European after knowing the name started visiting the area, resulting in growth in popularity.


Tour guides confide that it is still the European population visiting the region. However, Americans have begun to take small tours and notice on the landscape.

Many tourists love walking through the dunes, and experienced mountain climbers describe it as an intensely strange experience, surreal and vertigo-inducing. Some of them have even described the feeling of being drug-induced and walking in a dream.

The rock certainly delights photographers, we're the professionals, and amateurs strive in taking the perfect mid-day pictures when a single shadow eclipses the Wave. Some of them also love the dramatic effect of the morning and near twilight, coming with the high domes casting stark shadows on the land.

Reaching to the Wave is a 3-mile hike across the open desert with no signpost path to follow. Hence, the travelers are recommended to carry a GPS as it is unheard for people to get lost without ever reaching the famous landmark. The closest town is Kanab in Utah to the West and Page in Arizona to the east. Both towns have a variety of hotels and guest houses that suits the needs, tastes, and budget of the travelers. The drive to the Wave from both Kanab and Page takes approximately 1hr 20 mins. Alternatively, there are two campgrounds nearby, the White House Campground and the Stateline Campground. The best time of the year to visit the Wave is during the fall or spring when their extremities of weather are absent. Summer temperatures exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and hence it is recommended not to visit. If you are photoholic, visit either during the middle of the day when there are no shadows or early morning or evening when stark shadows over the land provide dramatic visuals. If you are a mountain lover and love hiking in a dangerous ravine, the Wave is your destination. While the rocks have hardened, they are susceptible to damage. Hence, only 20 visitors a day are allowed to walk through the ravine and require permits that are issued online and in-person lotteries. Various tour guides are available for hire.

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