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Natural Bridges National Monument - Utah

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Located just off the Bicentennial Highway, the three perforated rock walls in the monument are spectacular examples of the forces of nature at work. To get there, see the drive on page 128, which will take you from Torrey and Blanding.

Geologically speaking, bridges are not arches. Bridges are created by the force of water carving holes in the rock. Natural arches are made by other forces of erosion. Stream erosion is a key to the formation of the three bridges in this park.

 What to See & Do

Two of the bridges are considered to be in a mature stage. Owachomo Bridge and Sipapu Bridge are no longer being eroded by streams, although wind and rain continue to shape their form.

Kachina Bridge is the youngest of the three, looking bulky and not as delicate as the older formations. It is located in White Canyon and still faces floodwaters each year. And -- some distant day -- they all will inevitably break up and disappear due to future erosion. In the meantime, these wonderful bridges are here to explore.

Although all of the stone bridges can be seen (more or less) from viewpoints along the one-way loop road, short trails will take you to the bridges for the kind of view you really should get if you've driven all the way to see them. Although it is the largest, Sipapu Bridge is hard to spot as you park along the road. Experienced hikers will wish to take the 8-mile (13 km) trail linking the bridges, which are located in two separate canyons. There is some climbing to do on the longer loop trail.

The loop road and the park's visitor center are located atop the plateau, on the canyon rim. There's a difference in ecosystems between the top and bottom landscapes. On the plateau, pinyon pine and juniper prevail. The canyon bottoms exhibit desert plant life: shrubs and grasses. Where there is water, cottonwoods and willows grow. A walk into the canyons from the three access points provides a good look at the transition zone, which features Douglas firs, oaks, and maples.

The visitor center features an orientation slide show that tells of the history of the natural bridges area and has information on park wildlife. There is a picnic area along the one-way loop road, before you reach the first bridge (Sipapu). Upon entering the monument, you'll see a large photovoltaic power system, which was completed and turned on in 1980. Until recently, it supplied all of the power requirements of the Monument. The park is open year-round but the prime season for viewing and hiking is from April through October. The fall season, when the aspens turn a bright yellow color, is particularly beautiful. During the winter, some trails may be closed because of snow and ice.

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Camping in the Park

There is one campground in the park, located just west of the visitor center. This is a primitive campground with 13 sites and no water, a 21-foot limit, but no fee. Interpretation programs are held here during summer months. Water is available at the visitor center.

Outside Accommodations

The nearest overnight places to stay are in Fry Canyon, which is 26 miles west on Utah Hwy. 95, and have very limited accommodations. The town of Blandings is 68 miles from the park and has more in the way of motels and restaurants, as well as RV parks. There is a campground/RV park at Hite Marina, 50 miles west in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

In Blanding, Kampark (435-678-2270) is open year-round, and has 52 RV sites with full hookups and 20 tent sites with toilets, showers, laundry, drinking water. There are also picnic tables, dump station, fishing and boating. Devil's Canyon Campground (435-587-2042) has pit toilets and no showers, with 33 RV and tent sites.


Nearby Places

Canyonlands National Park

Capitol Reef National Park

Arches National Park

Moab

Monument Valley

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