The main question surrounding the collapse of an Arch is WHY?
Erosion and gravity reign supreme over sandstone. For countless eons, rain, ice and groundwater slowly but relentlessly eat away at the natural calcium "cement" holding the Arch's sand grains together. Eventually there isn't enough of the cement left to withstand the forces of gravity and so the entire structure finally comes crashing down, as in the case of Wall Arch, when the remains of the ancient arch were found on the Devil's Garden Hiking Trail on August 5, 2008. Perhaps nature wedged off one piece of rock too many. This was the first major span to fall in 17 years. Wall Arch was 71 feet tall and 33 1/3 feet wide and was ranked 12th largest in size.
Favorite thing: Situated in the Courthouse Towers area, THE THREE GOSSIPS is one of the first formations you will come across. It will be on your left ( West) side of the main drive. The red sandstone megaliths look like three people whispering among themselves. It was one of my favourite rock formations.
Soon after entering Arches National Park, the COURTHOUSE TOWERS can be seen just off the main road.
Massive, but narrow sandstone fins tower above the surrounding flatlands. Its spires resemble skyscrapers.
We did have lots of time to rest too but it was the midday hours from 9:30 AM-5:00 PM. It was typical for us to be coming off a hike that we had to ourselves at a time when most people were just arriving. We would eat something small in the car on the way over to the hike and carry a small snack for out at one of the arches. When we got back to our campsite at 9:30 AM we would cook up a nice breakfast and enjoy a coffee in the shade of our red rock paradise. People heading off to hike probably thought we were lazy, wasting the best part of the day, but we knew the best part of the day was already over. Not that the breakfast hour was exactly bad. We learned to love these times, moving every half hour with the sun to find more shade in our expansive spot. There were also visits to nearby Moab to do laundry, pick up food supplies, grab a shower and visit the local brewpub. But come the approach of sunset and we were back in the car speeding our way back into the park to enjoy the magnificent glow of the red rock arches.
We wound up extending our stay three more nights for a total of five. It would have been easy to stay seven but we'd done pretty much every hike in the park, many twice and with June now upon us, the desert grew increasingly hot with each passing day. There were other parks to visit and ocean breezes in California, Oregon, and Washington calling. On our last day, we made a big breakfast. We sat and enjoyed a coffee in what was our favorite camping spot on the whole six-month trip around the United States. Just like our predecessors, we didn't want to leave. We just hoped the people waiting for our spot not only didn't hate us too much for lingering around but would enjoy it every bit as much as we did.
The Devil's Garden campground is the only one at Arches National Park and with only 52 spots you can imagine its popularity. Of that number, 28 can be reserved while the remaining 24 are first come, first served. There is a maximum stay of 7 days to help free some of them up but obviously on any given day there might not be any available for walk-ins. Those camping have to notify the park whether they are going to need the spot the following night by noon. In theory, you should be able to find out how many spots there will be the following day. What you have no idea of is just how many people want those spots and how early some of them are willing to arrive to attain them.
We had just found out that another couple was willing to arrive at 4:00 AM and we thought we were crazy waking up 3:45 AM to break down our tent! The visitor center doesn't begin dishing out what spots there are until 7:30 AM and by that time the line was wrapping around the building. A park ranger arrived promptly at the designated time and counted the number of groups waiting. There were over 50 of them and he explained there were only 7 spots opening up that morning. A huge groan emanated from the line's rear, fully knowing they would not be camping at the Devil's Garden that evening. Being in the two spot, we knew we were in and breathed a sigh of relief. We rejoiced with our now Swiss friends. We had got to know each other well in the three hours we had been waiting. They were on a shorter trip than we were but were also driving around the US. They could not afford to wait another day which explained why they came so early, not wanting to leave anything to chance. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
It might not have been the greatest camping spot we ever had but it had served us well. As hot as it was the previous afternoon, we managed to find some shade after inhaling half of a watermelon to fend off dehydration which promptly put us into full nap mode. Later, after a glorious sunset overlooking the huge chasm that defines Canyonlands National Park, we got into our sleeping bags early anticipating an uncivilized wake-up call the next morning.
As hot as it had been the day before, early the next morning it was very comfortably chilly. Getting out of our bags was a laborious but necessary evil. We were off to secure a spot at Arches National Park's highly coveted campground. We had failed in this department the previous day and hence our current predicament.
Our run of six weeks straight of camping came in handy; we broke down our tent in a matter of minutes and were soon speeding our way to Arches, some thirty miles and forty-five minutes away on a narrow twisting road in the dark. Arriving at 4:45 am we figured we were a shoe-in to be first in line but were surprised to find another couple huddled up on a lone bench at the entrance to the visitor center. We made acquaintance. The Swiss duo had arrived at 4:00 am determined to not only be first but also to secure a spot if only one was available. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
It was a huge plot of land. The park service says each spot can accommodate 10 people and it was no exaggeration. We decided to put the tent up high on a sandy dune even though it was far from our parking spot. What's paradise without a little effort? Set right amongst the red rock that defines Arches, it was not only gorgeous but it would provide some shade. We would find out this latter point was more important than scenic beauty in the end. The picnic table was conveniently closer to the car and we decided what better thing to do in our first hours at the spot than have a hearty breakfast.
We then went and paid the campground host for two nights. He explained we could extend it up to one week but had to let him know by 11:00 AM of each day what our intentions were the following day. We spent the next days getting up before the sun, rushing over to vantage points to capture the various arches in perfect light. Often those spots were short walks, other times longer hikes begun in twilight. We did the same thing again just before sunset, scurrying around madly to get the perfect photos. It probably sounds hectic and it was but at the time it was a wonderful thing too. We felt so alive and energized as if part of the desert around us. Deer and jack rabbits scampered by our tent each morning to help us out of our sleeping bags. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: The visitor center is at the beginning of the park and the Devil's Garden Campground is 18 miles away at the end of the park's road. It is a very scenic 18 miles and could take hours to complete with stops and small walks but this was no time for sight-seeing. We sped off to get the best spot we could. I had been to the park previously but it was hard for even me to not pull over to appreciate the stunning beauty. My wife was overwhelmed but understood the importance of getting our spot quickly. It was only 8:30 AM when we arrived and with many of the people leaving still enjoying their spots, not all of them were truly available to be set up in at that precise moment. Luckily, the park puts a little smiley face on the campsite post, letting the incoming campers know which ones they will be able to choose from. We made a quick survey of them and narrowed it down to two that were close together. One was empty but the one we really wanted still had two girls who obviously did not want to leave taking their good old time breaking down. It was also obvious that we were waiting for the spot and we began to dislike them in their cruelty. Finally, they were gone and we pounced on the prime real estate like ravenous cats awaiting a meal of sardines. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Arch's National Park is one of the most photogenic places in the world, but its not how you take the picture, but when you take the picture that makes the difference. Lighting and time of day is everything when it comes to photographing the rock formations. The following is the best time of day to photograph the various rock formations:
Early Morning: Moab Fault, The Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, The Great Wall, Turret Arch, The Spectacles, Double Arch, Cache Valley, Wolfe Ranch, Landscape Arch, Double O' Arch
Late Afternoon: Park Avenue, Courthouse Towers, Petrified Dunes, Balanced Rock, The Garden of Eden, North and South Windows, Delicate Arch, Fiery Furnace, Skyline Arch, Fins in Devils Garden, Tower Arch.
As you pass some of the sheer faces of the fins you will notice a shiny blackish coating on the walls. This of course has been caused by thousands of years of the locals building campfires using the cliffs as windbreaks ;)
Sorry, private joke! In fact this is a natural phenomenon, which is also seen at Canyonlands, and other similar locations, and is caused by microbiological growths, sometimes called "Canyon Varnish" which has often been scraped away to form petroglyphs. Link below has some interesting photos.
If you plan to be a frequent visitor to National Parks in the course of a year, the National Park Pass can be a great purchase. I bought mine in March in Rocky Mountain National Park ($20). Since then it has paid for itself at least two times. The pass is $50 and can be used at any of the National Parks, National Monuments and National Recreation Areas.
Upon purchase you will sign the back. Each card can accommodate two signatories. Although we were told that we would need to show ID each time we use it, ID has actually only been requested once in 8 uses so far.
Once upon a long time ago – several hundred million years ago, the area which is now the park, has been part of the so-called Paradox Bassin, a huge depression.
Saltwater from a nearby sea flow in and filled this bassin. The water eventually evaporated and left behind a saltbed or concentrated brine (KCl, CaSO4 x 2 H2O :-) ).
Over the millions of time, additional debris was deposited, leaving thin layers of limestone and shale. More debris was left, when some of the bassin surrounding edges were uplifted, and their tops eroded.
Fondest memory: Saltbed layers are not stable, when under pressure, as now with this overweight rock debris. So this bed moved plastically to places with less overweight (this is similar as ice movement in glaciers).
During late Jurassic and Cretaceous, around less than 200 mio years ago, this movement caused further uplift at the places from where the salt bed had moved, and over the time, anticlines or upfolds with a core of salt have formed that way. Further uplift 10-60 million years ago widened up the already existing folds, joints were formed in the anticlines – parallel fractures which gave room for more erosion.
The result were valleys with steep fractured walls – optimum surfaces for water to enter, freeze and cracking up the fissures and erode the rocks.
Among the NP on Colorado Plateau, Arches NP is the youngest.
But haha, then again - what is age :-)
Arches NP stretches out more or less in a north-south direction. Consider this to plan your trip for the best shots.
Early morning = when the sun is rising from the (plain) east with nearly no barrier between it and the rocks, you will get the best views on
inside Park Avenue,
Landscape Arch and
the others within Devils Garden.
Late afternoon you should be at
Balanced Rock, and
in the Garden of Eden.
But…. my most favourite pic is the one of Delicate Arch with the sun just behind it’s top – so it all depends :-)
In 1929, Arches Nationalpark was established as National Monument, in 1971 as National Park. It is categorized as high plain destert, with it's highest elevation at 1723 m (Elephant Butte) and it's lowest at 1245 m (Visitor Center).
Annual rainfall is around 250 mm per year.
On the 310 km2 areal, more than 1500 arches have been carved out by erosion into mostly Navajo and Entrada sandstone.
Entrance fee is 10 USD per car (valid for 7 days), it might be easier to get the Golden Eagle pass, if you intend to visit more national parks.
Except christmas day, the park is open all year round, in summer from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm, in winter from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.
The best time to visit would be off- season, if it's not too hot and not too crowded. I was there in october (1990), with an average amount of other visitors, and in late december (1993), where sis and I seem to have been the only visitors :-)
Fondest memory: Park Map
If you like beforehand reading about your destination, you should not miss “Desert Solitude” by Edward Abbey. Born in 1927, Abbey came to US Southwest as a youngster. He did various jobs, and also worked for the national parks for a long time. Among this, he spent 2 years in Arches NP in it’s early days of being a National Monument.
"Desert Solitude” reflects about his love for pristine wilderness in general and in specific for this wild and rough desert.
Fondest memory: Quote from the book cover:
"This book may well seem like a ride on a buckling bronco. It's rough, tough, combative. The author is a rebel and an eloquent loner. His is a passionately felt, deeply poetic book. It has philosophy. It has humor. It has its share of nerve-tingling adventures - set down in a lean, racing prose, in a close-knit style of power and beauty."
If you like to read more about Edward Abbey - please check the Website