In the American Southwest, badlands are a landscape of soft, multi-layered, multicolored sedimentary rocks that have been weathered into small hills, gullies, and pinnacles. They are often largely or completely void of any vegetation and usually occur in arid environments. Some locations have rocks that are harder and more resistant to erosion while others have given rise to extensive arrays of hoodoos – fantastic eroded formations of every shape imaginable. While the vast majority of such places are remote and/or little-known – and not a part of any national or state parks – they rank amongst some of the most photogenic landscapes in the world.
The appeal of badlands usually lies in the small details, the shapes, colors, and forms of the rocks, rather than in the overall scene. As with several other landscape features, badlands appear on the Colorado Plateau of southern Utah, northeast Arizona, and northwest New Mexico. The desert areas of southeast California and southern Nevada also have a selection of eroded landscapes, such as Anza Borrego, Red Rock Canyon, Rainbow Basin, Valley of Fire, and sites in Death Valley like Twenty Mule Canyon, Zabriskie Point, and Golden Canyon.
Factory Butte is the most recognizable feature of a large area of stark, barren land on either side of the Fremont River known as the Upper Blue Hills. Bordered by Capitol Reef to the west, the Henry Mountains to the south, the San Rafael Swell to the north, and the San Rafael Desert to the east, the topography is characterized by mudflats and grey badlands devoid of any vegetation. The intricate textures and shapes of Factory Butte create a mesmerizing image with lasting questions as to how such textures could be created.