Sipapu Natural Bridge, fall colors, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Natural Bridges Nat’l. Mon.

Sipapu Natural Bridge, sixth largest in the world; Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Sipapu Bridge, sixth largest natural bridge in the world.

Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah is one of only two places on Earth with three natural bridges so close together. The other place is in China. Natural bridges are much more rare than arches, because bridges were formed by a flowing stream wearing a hole through a wall of rock.

Sipapu Natural Bridge is the sixth largest one in the world, and the second largest one in the Americas, after Glen Canyon’s Rainbow Bridge.

Kachina Bridge, from its west buttress, summer; Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Kachina Bridge, from its west buttress, summer.

Kachina Natural Bridge is the youngest of the three, and thus the most massive in terms of rock bulk. It has the most left to erode away before, someday far into the future, collapsing. Kachina Bridge is notable for having ancient ancestral puebloan symbols pecked into it (called petroglyphs), as well as painted on symbols (called pictographs). The ancient ones migrated out of here about 800 years ago, so the symbols are at least that old.

Owachomo Natural Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Owachomo Bridge panorama, evening, Natural Bridges National Monument.

Owachomo Natural Bridge is the oldest of the three, thus it is the thinnest and is the one most likely to collapse first, however far in the future that might be. It also has the smallest span of the three natural bridges, also its wide open setting leads many visitors to think it’s the largest (widest span) natural bridge in the park.

Natural Bridges National Monument also provides protection to hundreds of priceless ancestral puebloan cliff dwelling ruins, as well as sacred symbols pecked into and painted on canyon walls and boulders.

Room blocks of Horsecollar Ruin, from the trail below; Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Room blocks of Horsecollar Ruin, from the trail below.

Foremost of the park’s cliff dwelling sites that the Visitor Center staff are allowed to talk about publicly is the Horsecollar Ruin in White Canyon. Located on the loop trail between Sipapu Bridge and Kachina Bridge on a ledge above the stream bottom, Horsecollar Ruin is accessible by scrambling up a steep slope of sandstone slickrock. There is a north unit, with several room blocks, and a south unit, with two kivas, some room blocks, and the namesake double granary ruin with doors shaped like horse collars.

Horsecollar Ruin granary ruins, with their horse collar shaped doors; Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Horsecollar Ruin granary ruins, with their horse collar shaped doors.

There is also a publicly accessible ruin site just downstream of Kachina Bridge. Though not marked with a sign, the Visitor Center staff is happy to give you detailed instructions as to how to find it. There are a few small granary ruins, metate scoops and stone axe sharpening grooves in the sandstone boulders, and numerous inscriptions and hand paints throughout.

Stone axe sharpening grooves and petroglyphs on buttress of Kachina Bridge; Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Stone axe sharpening grooves and petroglyphs on buttress of Kachina Bridge.

In fact, the buttresses of Kachina Bridge itself have a number of inscriptions pecked into its Cedar Mesa Sandstone.

Ancient petroglyphs on the upstream side of Kachina Bridge's east buttress; Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Ancient petroglyphs on the upstream side of Kachina Bridge’s east buttress. (Digitally enhanced for ease of viewing in this photo).

Sipapu Natural Bridge, fall colors, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Ultra wide angle two shot panorama at Sipapu Bridge.

There are many more ancestral puebloan sites within the monument that are considered too sensitive for the park staff to talk about, although you are free to hike the canyons looking for them. The ancestral puebloan (“Anasazi”) peoples left this area — the greater Cedar Mesa area — about 800 years ago. There were far more people living here then than there are now.

Kachina Bridge and fall colors, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Kachina Bridge, fall colors.

Summer monsoon sunset thunderstorm with lightning: Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Summer monsoon sunset thunderstorm over Natural Bridges.

Cedar Mesa sunset panorama, from Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Blue-black above, black below, gold in the middle. A sunset sandwich over Natural Bridges.

Sipapu Natural Bridge panorama, early fall colors; Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Sipapu Natural Bridge panorama, from above, autumn.

Sipapu Bridge, early fall colors, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Sipapu Bridge from the trail into White Canyon, autumn.

Gambel Oak foliage, beneath Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Gambel Oak foliage in early fall, beneath Sipapu Bridge.

Reflection, White Canyon, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Reflection, White Canyon.

Sunset rain curtain over Natural Bridges and Moss Back Butte; Navajo Mountain in far distance, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Sunset rain curtain over Natural Bridges and Moss Back Butte. Navajo Mountain in the far distance.

Sipapu Bridge and manzanita, winter, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Sipapu Bridge and manzanita in snow.

View from the Ledge, Sipapu Bridge trail, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

View from the Ledge, Sipapu Bridge trail.

Snow storm from the rim of White Canyon, looking down onto Sipapu Natural Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Still snowing from the rim of White Canyon, looking down onto Sipapu Natural Bridge.

Owachomo Bridge, early snow and sunset, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Owachomo Bridge, early snow.

Upper portion of Sipapu Bridge trail, winter, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Upper portion of Sipapu Bridge trail, winter.

Fremont Cottonwood trees in fall splendor, White Canyon above Sipapu Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Fremont Cottonwood trees in fall splendor, White Canyon above Sipapu Bridge.

Underneath mighty Sipapu Bridge, sixth largest in the world; fall colors, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Underneath mighty Sipapu Bridge, sixth largest in the world.

Underneath Kachina Bridge, fall colors reflection, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.

Underneath Kachina Bridge, fall colors reflection.

All content Copyright © 2014-2016 Stephen J. Krieg.

4 comments on “Natural Bridges Nat’l. Mon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s