The Natural Arch and Bridge Society says, “A natural arch is a rock exposure that has a hole completely through it. This hole is formed by the natural, selective removal of rock, leaving a relatively intact frame. A natural bridge is actually a type of natural arch where a current of water, such as a stream, clearly was a major agent in the formation of the opening (hole).”
Four Trips for One Night Photo
The bridges in Natural Bridges National Monument cross White and Armstrong canyons in southeast Utah east of Lake Powell. They have attracted human visitors for at least 9,000 years and they have lured me back a dozen times. Cross-bedded lines carved in white Cedar Mesa sandstone paint the picture of an advance of ancient sand dunes under the force of wind and water. I travelled here four times alone because I REALLY wanted one decent night-time photo of Owachomo. It’s one of three major natural bridges here, along with Sipapu and Kachina. Sipapu, in Hopi mythology, is a “gateway through which souls may pass to the spirit world.” A hike through this gateway remains soulful, even after descending a steep Park Service-provided staircase and three wooden ladders just to reach the canyon floor below.
Drive a Vehicle, Ride a Bike or Take a Hike
All three ancient bridges may be viewed from above. Take a drive or ride a bike along the scenic and paved nine-mile Bridge View Drive. There are plenty of pull-outs and view spots. Or, if you’d like to discover more, hiking trails wind beneath all three bridges. They also meander past a number of intriguing ancient Puebloan ruins and pictographs. The shortest hike of about .4 miles (.6 km) leads to Owachomo Bridge. The longest hike is a loop of about 8.6 miles (13.8 km), and it passes all three bridges.
Thoughts from a Naturalist
Most of us won’t be able to visit this grand national monument soon, even though we’re itching to get out, even in the cold of winter. However, a pervasive pandemic has pounced on our planet. As David Attenboroug, 94-year-old beloved British naturalist said in a recent NY Times interview, “I think that what this pandemic has done, in a very strange way, is made an awful lot of people suddenly aware of how valuable and important the natural world is to our psychic well-being.”
I hope two minutes of lovely photos and beautiful music from my singing sister Kate and her husband Dr. Dennis Varley will suffice for now… Happy New Year!