|Natural Bridges National Monument protects some of the finest examples of ancient stone architecture in the southwest. Located on a tree-covered mesa cut by deep sandstone canyons, three natural bridges formed where meandering streams eroded the canyon walls. The bridges are named Kachina, Owachomo and Sipapu.At 6,500 feet above sea level, Natural Bridges is home to a variety of plants and animals. Plants range from the fragile cryptobiotic soil crusts to remnant stands of Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. Natural Bridges was established in 1908, making it the oldest National Park Service site in Utah.Repeatedly occupied and abandoned during prehistoric times, Natural Bridges National Monument was first used during the Archaic period, from 7000 B.C. to A.D. 500. Only the rock art and stone tools left by hunter-gatherer groups reveal that humans lived here then. Around 700 A.D., ancestors of modern Puebloan people moved into the area to farm but later left as the environment changed. Around A.D. 1100, new migrants from across the San Juan River moved into small, single-family houses near the deepest, best-watered soils throughout this area. In the 1200's, farmers from Mesa Verde migrated here, but by the 1300's the ancestral Puebloans migrated south. Navajos and Paiutes lived in the area during later times, and Navajo oral tradition holds that their ancestors lived among the early Puebloans.In 1883, prospector Cass Hite wandered up White Canyon from his base camp along the Colorado River in search of gold. What he found instead were three magnificent bridges water had sculpted from stone. In 1904, National Geographic Magazine publicized the bridges, and in 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt established Natural Bridges National Monument, creating Utah's first National Park Service area.Several names have been applied to the bridges. First named "President," "Senator" and "Congressman" by Cass Hite, the bridges were renamed "Augusta," "Caroline" and "Edwin" by later explorer groups. As the park was expanded to protect nearby Puebloan structures, the General Land Office assigned the Hopi names "Sipapu," "Kachina" and "Owachomo" in 1909. Sipapu means "the place of emergence," an entryway by which the Hopi believe their ancestors came into this world. Kachina is named for rock art on the bridge that resembles symbols commonly used on kachina dolls. Owachomo means "rock mound," a feature atop the bridge's east abutment.Horsecollar Ruin is a major attraction at Natural Bridges, and one of the best-preserved ancestral Puebloan sites in the area. Named because the doorways to two structures resemble horsecollars, the site was abandoned more than 700 years ago. Its remarkable state of preservation, including an undisturbed kiva with the original roof and interior, is likely due to the isolation of Natural Bridges: few visitors ever made the journey down these canyons.Kachina Bridge is "the middle bridge." Spanning the canyon equidistant from both Owachomo and Sipapu bridges. It is larger than Owachomo but smaller than Sipapu. Proving that canyons are dynamic rather than static, approximately 4,000 tons of sandstone fell from the inside of the Kachina bridge opening in June, 1992, enlarging the opening as it has doubtless been enlarged time and time again.Owachomo Bridge is the smallest and thinnest of the three natural bridges here and is commonly thought to be the oldest. We may never know for certain, as each of the bridges have eroded at different rates. Regardless of its relative age, it is certainly the most fragile and elegant of the three spans, and an awe-inspiring feature of erosion.Sipapu Bridge is the largest and most spectacular of the three bridges in the Monument. It is considered middle aged, older than Kachina but younger than Owachomo. It's rounded opening and smooth sides are mute evidence of countless floods bearing scouring rocks and sand. This bridge, whose opening would almost house the dome of the United States Capitol, has taken thousands of years to form but will someday collapse and erode as part of the endless cycles of time and change.|
|Facilities: The visitor's center at Natural Bridges National Monument provides restrooms and drinking water.There are 13 campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. Each site has a fire grate (no wood gathering in the Monument) and picnic table. Maximum vehicle length is 21 feet. Campground typically fills by early afternoon from early March through late October. It is not cleared of snow in the winter.|
Best Time To Visit: Natural Bridges is open year-round. The scenic drive is open every day from early morning until about 30 minutes past sunset. The visitor's center is open all year from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.Most visitors spend at least two to three hours exploring Natural Bridges. Plan on stopping at the visitor center and touring the scenic drive, with stops at each overlook to view the bridges. Several short hikes allow closer inspection of these remarkable formations, as well as Horsecollar Ruin.
Fees: An entrance fee is charged. A nightly fee is charged to camp at the campsites.
Accessibility: The visitor center and restrooms are handicap. The campground has no designated site for disabled persons but has several sites and one restroom that is accessible. The three bridge overlook trails are accessible via a concrete sidewalk, however the sidewalk to the Kachina Bridge viewpoint may not be accessible with a standard wheelchair due to its slope.
Rules: Please note that pets are not allowed on hiking trails.
Directions: To reach Natural Bridges National Monument from Blanding, travel south on Highway 191 to Highway 95. Take Highway 95 west for approximately 35 miles to Highway 275. The monument is located at the end of Highway 275.
Map: Click here for a map to Natural Bridges National Monument
Reservations: Reservations are not needed or accepted for Natural Bridges National Monument.
|Natural Bridges National Monument|
|HC 60 Box 1|
|Lake Powell, Utah 84533|
|General: (435) 692-1234|
|Fax: (435) 692-1111|