Natural Bridges

Natural Bridges National Monument, Sipapu Bridge, Utah, White Canyon
Sipapu Bridge : Prints Available

Sipapu Bridge spans the White Canyon. *Full disclosure: Utilizing my official artistic license, I have taken the liberty of photoshopping out some metal handrails that exist to help people walk down the steep slickrock here.

After all these years of exploring the deserts and canyons of Utah, I never bothered to go to Natural Bridges National Monument. It’s pretty much out of the way from anywhere and after all, it’s just another couple arches, right? Well, on our recent road trip after backpacking in nearby Dark Canyon, Natural Bridges was finally on our way, so I figured we might as well stop and check it out.

And we were blown away. First off, the natural bridges — particularly Sipapu — are absolutely mind-boggling. These aren’t some dainty little arches; these are ginormous masses of earth soaring through the sky over the canyon. And what a canyon too! Even if the bridges weren’t there, White Canyon would still be an awesome place for a hike. And if that’s not enough, there’s an abundance of Ancestral Puebloan ruins throughout the canyon — including some of the most fascinating sites I’ve yet seen.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Sipapu Bridge, Utah, White Canyon
Sipapu Over Cottonwood : Prints Available

Sipapu Bridge soars directly overhead, high above a cottonwood tree with autumn colors.

The thing about Natural Bridges Monument, though, is that there’s not a whole lot to see from the road. A roadside tourist might not see what’s so great about this place. You’ve got to at least hike down to Sipapu to see the glory. On our first day there we hiked the entire “three bridge” loop hike starting and ending at the Sipapu trailhead. We enjoyed the canyon so much we decided to spend a second day there hiking up-canyon to see more of it!

Natural Bridges National Monument, Sipapu Bridge, Utah, White Canyon
Sipapu Bridge Autumn : Prints Available

Sipapu Bridge soars over some autumn colored cottonwood trees in White Canyon. With a height of 220 feet and length of 225 feet (some say 268 feet), Sipapu Bridge is the second longest natural bridge in the world (after Rainbow Bridge) and the seventh longest arch if you consider it an arch. Natural bridges are formed by erosion from a creek or river that eventually runs underneath them, while arches are formed by erosion from seepage, freezing, sand, and/or wind.

Horsecollar Ruin, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, kiva, ruin, White Canyon, Ancestral Puebloan
Horsecollar Kiva : Prints Available

A look inside an Ancestral Puebloan kiva with a still-intact roof after approximately 1000-700 years.

* Please note that I did NOT enter this kiva, which would be a foolish thing to do and could possibly damage the ancient structure.  I carefully pointed my camera through a gap below the roof, and my ultra-wide lens makes it look like a view from inside.

Horse collar ruins are located between Sipapu and Kachina bridges, up on a hard-to-get-to ledge as usual. It’s so fascinating to image people living here almost a thousand years ago, and the fact that these ruins have been sitting here for that long gives them an aura of sacredness.

See more photos below!

Kachina Bridge, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, White Canyon
Kachina Bridge Reflection : Prints Available

A reflection under Kachina Bridge.

Kachina Bridge, though not as high or long as Sipapu, is even more massive in girth — 93 feet thick!

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, ruin, White Canyon, Ancestral Puebloan
Kachina Ruin : Prints Available

An Ancestral Puebloan ruin and handprints in White Canyon.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, White Canyon

Hiking up White Canyon.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, ruin, White Canyon, Ancestral Puebloan

Ancient Puebloan ruins are often found under deep alcoves on high and/or difficult to access ledges above the canyon floors, likely for shelter and defensive purposes.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, ruin, White Canyon, Ancestral Puebloan

An Ancestral Puebloan ruin in White Canyon.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, pictographs, White Canyon, Ancestral Puebloan

Reverse handprint pictographs on the wall of White Canyon; these were created approximately 1000-700 years ago.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah, kiva, ruin, White Canyon, Ancestral Puebloan

An Ancestral Puebloan kiva in White Canyon with intact roof. Unfortunately it is forbidden to enter this kiva due to concerns about the structural integrity of the roof.

So, the moral of my little photo story is: Natural Bridges Monument is awesome! I’m sure I’ll return to White Canyon for more hiking in the future.

2 thoughts on “Natural Bridges

  1. Lovely pictures. If you know of any planned trips to this area or the Grand Gulch that I could join in first half of Sept 2016, please let me know. Gary

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