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In Search of the Death Jump Location from 'Thelma and Louise'

March 22, 2011 at 3:11 PM | by | ()

The view from the top

Ah, Thelma and Louise. Not to beat around the sexist bush or anything, but if you’re a female, it probably means a little more to you than if you’re a bloke. The sense of right on, pre-Spice Girls girl power. The freedom of the open road. The idea that road trips aren’t the preserve of men – all things that, not to get all preachy about it, had a greater impact than we realized as we grew up. In fact, when, in our very first job, we said something to our very first boss about Monument Valley and she said “Monument Valley! I traveled all the way there from New York because Thelma and Louise went there”, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

Since then, we’ve hit the Thelma and Louise trail ourselves. In fact, this member of Jaunted made a solo roadtrip from LA to New York last year, thinking of the girls. In October, we hit up Monument Valley, for the sake of both the girls and our old boss. And every time we visited the Grand Canyon, we had a moment of silence for Thelma and Louise.

That was, until two weeks ago we went to Moab, Utah, and were informed on our last day by locals that the death scene of Thelma and Louise was, in fact, not filmed at the Grand Canyon, but right there, at a place called Dead Horse Point State Park. Wot? We felt robbed.

Turns out much of the film was actually shot around Moab. The scene where they lock a state trooper in the trunk of his car? Not Monument Valley, as the film continuity had us imagine, but Arches National Park, a couple of miles out of Moab. The town itself also appeared. But what we really cared about was that dusty road where they drove to infinity and beyond.

Sadly, the rangers at the park don’t care so much – the one on duty the day we went had no idea where the scene was filmed. And, stunning though the park is – it’s every bit as impressive as the Grand Canyon, only you have it all to yourself so it's even more compelling – it didn’t seem to be the right location. Because the, um, point of Dead Horse Point is that it’s one finger-like sliver of land jutting out into the abyss of Canyonlands National Park, and connected to the mainland by an even thinner isthmus. There’s no space to rev the car and drive off the edge, because the edge is all it is.

We left, spaced out by the beauty of the place but slightly disappointed that we hadn’t seen the location. And then, a couple of miles down the road towards Moab, we saw it: a dusty red track leading as far as the eye could see, with, presumably, a big ass canyon drop at the end of it.

We didn’t drive down it, being in possession of neither a four wheel drive nor a deathwish, but as far as we were concerned, that was the place.

And then, once we got home and were able to access internet that ran faster than a tortoise, we found out the actual death jump location is on a plateau just below Dead Horse Point. It’s pretty hard to get to as it’s part of the White Rim Trail – a 100-mile road around the second level of Canyonlands which takes at least three days to navigate (the park is split into three levels, and unless you’re going to Jeep it or cycle round the entire rim, you have to stay on the top one).

However, on the plus side, you can get a view of down there where it happened from Dead Horse itself, and if you drive around the top bits of Canyonlands National Park (on the other side of the canyon from Dead Horse), you'll definitely get a feel for the T&L landscape. Check your vertigo back in Moab, though – the awesome rim trails which you can walk up there are like the Grand Canyon, only with no support or railings, and no other tourists to hear you scream. No wonder it was perfect for the girls.

[Thelma and Louise photo: Conclusions Drawn. All others: juliab for Jaunted]

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