Utah’s Natural Arches and Bridges

Utah Arches

Natural Arch Capitol of the World

Utah’s Colorado Plateau is home to the highest concentration of natural arches and bridges in the world. Natural arches and bridges can be found at all five of Utah’s national parks with Arches National Park and Natural Bridges National Monument the most notable. Arches National Park alone has more than 2,000 arches.

Utah Arches

Why Utah?

Why are there so many arches in Utah? In short, southern Utah’s geology and semiarid climate are ideal for forming arches. An abundance of sandstone and limestone are found in this region that are strong enough to support the weight of arches, and yet soft enough to easily erode by the natural processes of erosion, e.g., wind, water, time, gravity. The Natural Arch and Bridge Society defines a natural arch as “a rock exposure that has a hole completely through it formed by the natural, selective removal of rock, leaving a relatively intact frame.”

Utah Arches

Arches vs Bridges

So what’s the difference between a natural arch and natural bridge. You see both terms used in the names and titles with both being similar in structure. In simple terms, a natural bridge is a natural stone arch that spans a valley of erosion, whereas a natural arch does not span an erosion valley. Natural Bridges National Monument is a good example of bridges spanning an erosion valley with three true bridges. The arches and windows at Arches National Park showcase true natural arches. Windows, like the windows in our houses are high above the ground. Arches are like doors where they occur at or near the base of a rock wall. Windows can eventually become an arch.

Six of the ten largest natural arches in the world are located in Utah with Landscape Arch (290 ft.) at Arches National Park and Kolob Arch (287 ft.) in the Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park in the number three and four positions respectively as the two largest. The other four Utah arches in order of size are; Morning Glory Natural Bridge (Grandstaff Canyon near Moab, 243 ft.), Rainbow Bridge (Rainbow Bridge National Monument – Glen Canyon, 234 ft.), Sipapu Natural Bridge (Natural Bridges National Monument, 225 ft.), and Stevens Arch (Escalante River, 220 ft.) The two longest arches are in China.

We frequently explore places that are known for their Arches but it’s quite typical for us to find arches and windows on nearly every hike we take in southern Utah.

Let us know your favorite arches by posting them in the comments below.

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