~ Natural Bridges National Monument ~

First, I have to say this. I enjoyed my visit to Natural Bridges much more than the visits to either Arches or Canyonlands National Parks. Before I left, I told the park ranger on duty that. It is an amazing place, which I highly recommend.

"In 1883, Cass Hite wandered up White Canyon from his mining claim on the Colorado River and 'discovered' three stone bridges. He brought them to the attention of area residents and the scientific community. Nowhere else had three such monolithic structures been located in such close proximity. They were described as having 'spans far greater than any heretofore known to exist.' On April 16, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation creating Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah's first National Park Service area."

At the time of the monument's establishement, little had been known of the location and character of prehistoric ruins near the bridges. Extraordinary cliff dwellings and mesa-top ruins deserved study and protection within the new monument. In response, the park boundary was expanded.

Today, the three bridges, Sipapu, Kachina and Owachomo (the names are taken from the Hopi Indian culture) are among the largest natural stone bridges in the world.

Sipapu Bridge

Before getting to the bridges, I wanted to show you some photos of the wonderful maze of canyons carved by the Colorado River within Natural Bridges National Monument and some ravens in flight.

Several names have been given to the bridges over the years. Sipapu (See-pa-pu) has had at least two other names -- President and Augusta -- but these were later changed. Cliff dwellings and rock art in the area reminded William Douglass, the leader of the 1908 government survey of the area, of the Hopi culture he had studied extensively in Arizona. Charged with finding "appropriate Indian names" for the bridges, he chose Sipapu, meaning "place of emergence."
Cedar Mesa, a million acre plateau encompassing the monument and surrounding area, is composed of nearly horizontal sedimentary rock layers. During the Permian Period, wind blown sands from the north and west were deposited here as dunes. Later sediments buried these dunes and with time, pressure and moisture, they became "petrified sand" or sandstone. Today, geologists label this layer the Cedar Mesa Sandstone.
Buried, then tilted and uplifted, the sandstone was slowly exposed by meandering streams which carried away the overlying sediments. These streams helped carve Sipapu and the other bridges. Sipapu is one of the largest natural bridges in the world. Sipapu Bridge is 220 feet high and 268 feet base to base.

The trails to the various view points were primitive at best

This ladder was the only way down to the view point

The trails ran along steep cliffs

The other side of Sipapu

I didn't go there

The canyons are amazing.

Well, Duh!

I liked how this grass was blowing in the wind

Horsecollar Ruin

The Anasazi occupied the Natural Bridges area from approximately A.D. 1 to about A.D. 1300. Horsecollar Ruin lies in one of the many shelters on Cedar Mesa which the Anasazi used as habitation sites.
Horsecollar Ruin is a well preserved and interesting prehistoric site. Inhabited by the Anasazi between 1050 and 1300 A.D., this site is unusual because it contains both round and square kivas (ceremonial chambers) representing two different architectural styles. The round kiva is associated with the Mesa Verde Anasazi of southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah while the square kiva is indicative of the Kayenta Anasazi of northern Arizona.
Pottery found at this site also reflects these two different influences, indicating likely trading patterns. Horsecollar Ruin exhibits a strong Kayenta tradition during the early period of occupation, with a Mesa Verde influence dominating the later period of use.
Horsecollar Ruin is named for the horse collar shaped entries into two of the round granaries or storage rooms.

In the photo on the left the ruin is at the right edge to show the location in the canyon.

Kachina Bridge

Kachina (Ka-chee-na) Bridge was named for the Hopi kachina spirits which frequently displayed lightning snake symbols on their bodies. Similar snake patterns were carved by prehistoric people on the base of Kachina Bridge.
Kachina Bridge is the best place in the monument to observe the making of a natural bridge. Here meandering streams cut downward into Cedar Mesa Sandstone, leaving a thin wall of rock. The streams attacked the wall from both sides. eroding the weaker areas. Eventually, the streams broke through the wall, creating a natural bridge.
Kachina is still being enlarged by these streams. Flash floods wear away at the abutments and gravity pulls at loose rock. Kachina Bridge is 210 feet high and 204 feet base to base.

In the photo on the right you can see the original path of the stream around the right of the bridge.

The water sliced through this slab of rock. The old course of the river ran along the green belt of trees in the left photo below.

On the right are visitors heading down to Owachomo Bridge

Owachomo Bridge

Owachomo (O-wa-cho-mo) is a Hopi Indian word for rock mound. On the upper left side of the bridge is a rock outcrop (not visible) which suggested the name for the bridge.
Owachomo Bridge looks different from either Sipapu or Kachina Bridge. Because it no longer straddles all the streams which carved it, it appears to be an arch. Flowing water is required to form a bridge, while an arch is freestanding and does not span a water course. Natrual bridges is famous for its three spectacular bridges, but the monument also contains smaller and less noticeable arches.
Owachomo Bridge is 106 feet high and 180 feet base to base.

The rock outcrop is at the very left edge of the photo above right and in the photo below left.

The bases left and right

The above photos are of the area where the photos below were take

I am in the photo on the left. Can you find me? The guy in the red shirt took my photo and I took his with his wife, who is sitting on the rocks behind him. They were from Russia.

Here I am

Looking right
Looking right and left is where the water went that carved Owachomo Bridge.

Looking left

Looking back at Owachomo

The Bears Ears

The two prominent buttes in the above photo are called the Bears Ears. Several Native American groups, including the Navajo, Ute and Pueblo Indians, consider this area sacred and include it is their oral traditions. These buttes are included in the sacred geography of the Navajo people.
One of the more popular Navajo stories is that of Changing-Bear-Maiden, who was very beautiful and desired by many men. She would have nothing to do with them. However, Coyote, the trickster, persuaded Changing-Bear-Maiden to marry hin in spite of her brother's warning that the union would bring evil.
Changing-Bear-Maiden began to change and by winter's end her transformation into a mischievous bear was complete. Realizing that the only way to save her was to change into another form, her brothers killed Changing-Bear-Maiden, cutting off her ears and throwing then away. They became the buttes seen today.
The Bears Ears can be seen from as far east as Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and as far south as Monument Valley Tribal Park in Arizona. THe buttes are on land administered by Manti-La Sal National Forest and are important landmarks for travelers in the Four Corners region. Their elevations are 8930 feet and 9058 feet.

The Bears Ears and Natural Bridges Visitor Center

Some of the many rock formations, caves and arches I encountered

Music is "Bridge Over Troubled Water"

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