Natural Bridges National Monument

Sipapu Bridge

Youthful Kachina Bridge looms huge and bulky. White Canyon floodwaters still work to enlarge its span. A trail threads the canyon between the three bridges.

Natural Bridges National Monument is usually reached from north when driving from Capital Reef National Park to Monument Valley. We came from Arches National Park on our way south. As it's located in the middle of nowhere there aren't many places to stay. This is why this park is usually just a stop on a day-drive.

There are some other interesting parks and monuments in this are that are worth a visit: Edge of the Cedars State Park, Valley of the Gods and especially the Goosenecks State Park, which is little more than an overlook. Once you reach it, you'll understand why: 1100ft below, the San Juan River carves the desert in a series of massive, meandering curves. But to get there from the natural bridges you first have to drive Moki Dugway. I just say: Forget Lombard St in San Francisco! This is the most memorable curved road you'll ever drive. The dugway is a (still unpaved) 3-mile section of hairpin turns descending 1100ft from Cedar Mesa. From the top, the views of southern Utah and northern Arizona are among the best in the country.

Owachomo Bridge

In 1883 prospector Cass Hite wandered up White Canyon from his base camp along the Colorado River. In search of gold, he found instead three magnificent bridges water had sculpted from stone. The natural bridges represent three stages: Old age, matrurity, and youth.

Streams no longer erode Owachomo Bridge, in its old age, but frost action and seeping moisture do. It may have a fatal crack now - or stand for centruries. Mature, highest, and greatest in span (268ft), Sipapu Bridge can be hard to spot from the canyon rim overlook despite its mass. It endures very little stream erosion because its abutments stand far from the stream.

Owachomo Bridge

Owachomo Bridge:

Height106ft = 32.3m
Span180ft = 54.9m
Width27ft = 8.2m
Thickness9ft = 2.7m

Owachomo Bridge is the oldest of the three bridges in Natural Bridges National Monument. There is no river running under it anymore. A short but quite steep trail brings you to the other side of the bridge. The picture on the left was taken from the trail not far from the parking lot, the other one from the other side.

How Bridges and Arches differ

Natural bridges are formed by the erosive action of running water. Arches (e.g. the great examples in Arches National Park) are formed by other erosional forces, mainly frost action and seeping moisture. Those same forces also work to enlarge natural bridges once stream erosion forms them.

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