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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Natural Bridges‏

April 9th, 2010 · No Comments

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Natural Bridges National Monument exists because of three huge natural bridges. I visited all three of them Thursday.

Leaving the Sierra Club outing to Grand Staircase-Escalante a couple of days early gave me the chance to explore other areas that I hadn’t seen before. I thought about the Canyon X slot canyons near Page, Arizona, but I still didn’t have enough time. I have to be in Denver by Sunday night to start a weeklong consulting contract that will take me to the Keystone ski resort — where we will work, not ski.

When I told Dave Hammack as we rode together in my SUV back from Broken Bow Arch that I was leaving that afternoon, he offered the suggestion that I followed. He recommended that I take the Burr Trail from Boulder, Utah, to Bullfrog at Lake Powell to get to Natural Bridges. I had wanted to see that southeast corner of the state, but hadn’t considered that route and any other route would take me far out of my way.

A sign told me that the Burr Trail — which nowadays is a road — was 75 unpaved miles with steep grades and sharp curves. In fact, only 16 miles are now unpaved and, while steep and sharp, they are well maintained.

The Burr Trail — named for a rancher who developed it to move cattle back and forth between winter and summer ranges — is quite scenic and runs through the south part of Canyonlands National Park. The drive took me through four federal recreation areas, all of which allowed me free entry with my interagency senior pass.

I arrived at Natural Bridges in the late afternoon in perfect time for photographing its three natural bridges. I had especially wanted to see natural bridges after seeing Broken Bow Arch the day before and Hickman Natural Bridge en route to Grand Staircase-Escalante.

Natural bridges and arches are different. The erosive action of flowing water form natural bridges. Other erosional forces — mainly the action of frost and the seepage of moisture — form arches.

Sipapu Bridge here is the world’s second largest after Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon. The span of Rainbow Bridge is 275 feet. But Sipapu is close, with a span of 268 feet.

Sipapu Bridge might not look all that big in my photo below, because you can’t see any humans or anything else that we are familiar with which to make a comparison. I shot Sipapu Bridge from the overlook. The trail down to the bridge is blocked by heavy snow and ice.

Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu Bridge

Click on the picture above to enlarge


I hiked down to Kachina Bridge, one of the steepest hikes I ever attempted. Fortunately, a ladder and handrails at the hardest places assisted me and the hike was only 1.4 miles roundtrip.

The trip was well worth the effort. I couldn’t even spot the bridge from the lookout. From underneath, however, it was rather obvious.

Kachina Bridge

Kachina Bridge

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Kachina is the youngest of the three bridges because of the thickness of its span, which is 204 feet. The oldest bridge, Owachomo, has the shortest span of the three natural bridges here, 180 feet, and can’t be seen at all without a short hike down.

Owachomo Bridge

Owachomo Bridge

Click on the picture above to enlarge

Of all the natural bridges that I have seen, this one is my favorite. Maybe that is because it looks like a “real” bridge that humans would build with a flat roadbed. I know that’s silly, but that’s the way my mind sometimes works.

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