Death at Horseshoe Bend: A Tragic Safety Reminder

Horseshoe Bend is a haven for photographers, but getting the perfect shot shouldn't come at the expense of safety. | Leila Shehab

A Phoenix man visiting an Arizona site familiar to photographers and Arizona Highways readers fell 800 feet to his death last week, authorities said.

The death of 33-year-old Zachary Wallace — who, as the Associated Press reported, fell from the Colorado River overlook the afternoon of Sunday, May 6 — is a tragic reminder of the need to take safety precautions at Horseshoe Bend and other remote Arizona locations.

Until recently, there was no safety railing at Horseshoe Bend, which is near Page and is part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. But in late 2017, the National Park Service announced it was beginning construction of a railing at the overlook; as of April, that project was still ongoing.

The Park Service said the railing will encompass only the area at the end of the trail. It added that visitors could still walk along the canyon's rim in areas without a railing, but that this is "not recommended."

While the circumstances of last week's tragedy are still unclear, there's no doubt that it's remarkably easy to forget about safety when you're in search of that perfect Instagram shot. But keep in mind that Horseshoe Bend has quickly gone from a hidden gem to a highly visited destination: More than 2 million people a year now visit the overlook, according to the Park Service. That means you're likely to be jostling with at least a few other photographers to get that perfect angle.

It's often windy there, too, as it is at many such overlooks. And a strong gust could be enough to knock you off balance and over the edge. So, whether you're at Horseshoe Bend, the Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly or some other spectacular Arizona vista, heed the Park Service's recommendation and stay behind the railing, if there is a railing. If there isn't, stay several feet back from the edge.

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