My brother and I visited Star Wars Canyon in the summer of 2019 for one week to shoot some low level aviation action. What a treat we had with F-18s, F-15s, F-35s, F-16s, a T-38 and even a B-52, not to mention several earthquakes!
Known locally as Rainbow Canyon, this staggeringly beautiful location lies in the northeastern reaches of the Mojave Desert at the western side of the Death Valley National park in Inyo County, California. The canyon is 5.5 miles long and sits at the end of the Jedi Transition, a route between point C and point J of the Sidewinder low level training route. Fighters and other military aircraft use this route to enhance their low level flying skills as they thread their multimillion dollar jets through this tight valley. The Jedi transition allows pilots to miss out a section of the Sidewinder from Owens Lake, just south of Lone Pine (Point C), and drop into Panamint Valley at Point J. The area is teaming with military aircraft activity including air-to-air practice, mid-air refuelling and other training taking place throughout the day and night.
We arrived in California just two days after the devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake that rocked Ridgecrest on July 4th and took NAWS China Lake out of action until the 11th July. Throughout the week we felt several aftershocks from this quake, including 4.5 and 4.4 magnitude quakes – definitely not what you want to feel when sitting precariously on a few boulders that are perched on several hundred feet of loose scree on a sheer cliff edge!