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A Day At Arches National Park


Moab, Utah

October 27, 2020


More overwhelmingly beautiful than I expected. Dramatic. Imposing.


Spent seven hours in the park. Two hikes. Hundreds of photos. Parred them down to the ones below. The park was quiet busy -- couldn't find parking at several of the arches. Seems like early morning might be a great time to get there (before 7 am) - crowd wouldn't be there and the light would be more dramatic than it was for most of my photos. Mid-day sun is not great for good photos.


Factoid - probably the most popular arch is the Delicate Arch which is the one seen on Utah's license plate. Rumor is sunset is a great time for photos of it but I was too lazy today -- it would mean a 1.5 miles hike back in the dark.


Spoke with a fellow who had come to Arches from Monument Valley and Sedona. He said all three are different but that all three are must sees. So I guess I am headed south! His name was Alyn - moving from Washington state to Nashville I gathered to pursue a career in music.


Glad I came to Arches. Crowd was more than I expected. I cut one hike short because I did not feel that folks were being aware of social distancing. Most folks were wearing masks.


Tomorrow - Canyonlands National Park -- unless I call an audible. 🤪


A bit about Arches from Wikipedia:


Arches National Park is a national park in eastern Utah. The park is adjacent to the Colorado River, 4 miles north of Moab, Utah. More than 2,000 natural sandstone arches are located in the park, including the well-known Delicate Arch, as well as a variety of unique geological resources and formations. The park contains the highest density of natural arches in the world.


The park consists of 76,679 acres of high desert located on the Colorado Plateau. The highest elevation in the park is 5,653 feet at Elephant Butte, and the lowest elevation is 4,085 feet at the visitor center. The park receives an average of less than 10 inches of rain annually.


Administered by the National Park Service, the area was originally named a national monument on April 12, 1929, and was redesignated as a national park on November 12, 1971. The park received more than 1.6 million visitors in 2018.


History


Humans have occupied the region since the last ice age 10,000 years ago. Fremont people and ancestral Puebloans lived in the area until about 700 years ago. Spanish missionaries encountered Ute and Paiute tribes in the area when they first came through in 1775, but the first European-Americans to attempt settlement in the area were the Mormon Elk Mountain Mission in 1855, who soon abandoned the area. Ranchers, farmers, and prospectors later settled Moab in the neighboring Riverine Valley in the 1880s.


Word of the beauty of the surrounding rock formations spread beyond the settlement as a possible tourist destination.


The Arches area was first brought to the attention of the National Park Service by Frank A. Wadleigh, passenger traffic manager of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. [Dang, that company figures in a lot of stuff out here!]. Wadleigh, accompanied by railroad photographer George L. Beam, visited the area in September 1923 at the invitation of Alexander Ringhoffer, a Hungarian-born prospector living in Salt Valley. Ringhoffer had written to the railroad in an effort to interest them in the tourist potential of a scenic area he had discovered the previous year with his two sons and a son-in-law, which he called the Devils Garden (known today as the Klondike Bluffs). Wadleigh was impressed by what Ringhoffer showed him, and suggested to Park Service director Stephen T. Mather that the area be made a national monument.


The following year, additional support for the monument idea came from Laurence Gould, a University of Michigan graduate student (and future polar explorer) studying the geology of the nearby La Sal Mountains, who was shown the scenic area by local physician Dr. J. W. "Doc" Williams.


A succession of government investigators examined the area, in part due to confusion as to the precise location. In the process, the name Devils Garden was transposed to an area on the opposite side of Salt Valley that includes Landscape Arch, the longest arch in the park. Ringhoffer's original discovery was omitted, while another area nearby, known locally as the Windows, was included.


Designation of the area as a national monument was supported by the Park Service from 1926, but was resisted by President Calvin Coolidge's Interior Secretary, Hubert Work. Finally, in April 1929, shortly after his inauguration, President Herbert Hoover signed a presidential proclamation creating Arches National Monument, consisting of two comparatively small, disconnected sections. The purpose of the reservation under the 1906 Antiquities Act was to protect the arches, spires, balanced rocks, and other sandstone formations for their scientific and educational value. The name Arches was suggested by Frank Pinkely, superintendent of the Park Service's southwestern national monuments, following a visit to the Windows section in 1925.


In late 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a proclamation that enlarged Arches to protect additional scenic features and permit development of facilities to promote tourism. A small adjustment was made by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 to accommodate a new road alignment.


In early 1969, just before leaving office, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation substantially enlarging Arches. Two years later, President Richard Nixon signed legislation enacted by Congress, which significantly reduced the total area enclosed, but changed its status to a national park.


Geology


The national park lies above an underground evaporite layer or salt bed, which is the main cause of the formation of the arches, spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins, and eroded monoliths in the area. This salt bed is thousands of feet thick in places, and was deposited in the Paradox Basin of the Colorado Plateau some 300 million years ago (Mya) when a sea flowed into the region and eventually evaporated. Over millions of years, the salt bed was covered with debris eroded from the Uncompahgre Uplift to the northeast.


During the Early Jurassic (about 210 Mya), desert conditions prevailed in the region and the vast Navajo Sandstone was deposited. An additional sequence of stream-laid and windblown sediments, the Entrada Sandstone (about 140 Mya), was deposited on top of the Navajo. Over 5,000 feet (1,500 m) of younger sediments were deposited and have been mostly eroded away. Remnants of the cover exist in the area including exposures of the Cretaceous Mancos Shale. The arches of the area are developed mostly within the Entrada formation.


The weight of this cover caused the salt bed below it to liquefy and thrust up layers of rock into salt domes. The evaporites of the area formed more unusual "salt anticlines" or linear regions of uplift. Faulting occurred and whole sections of rock subsided into the areas between the domes. In some places, they turned almost on edge. The result of one such 2,500-foot displacement, the Moab Fault, is seen from the visitor center.


As this subsurface movement of salt shaped the landscape, erosion removed the younger rock layers from the surface. Except for isolated remnants, the major formations visible in the park today are the salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone, in which most of the arches form, and the buff-colored Navajo Sandstone. These are visible in layer-cake fashion throughout most of the park. Over time, water seeped into the surface cracks, joints, and folds of these layers. Ice formed in the fissures, expanding and putting pressure on surrounding rock, breaking off bits and pieces. Winds later cleaned out the loose particles. A series of free-standing fins remained. Wind and water attacked these fins until, in some, the cementing material gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out. Many damaged fins collapsed. Others, with the right degree of hardness and balance, survived despite their missing sections. These became the famous arches.


Although the park's terrain may appear rugged and durable, it is extremely fragile. More than 1 million visitors each year threaten the fragile high-desert ecosystem. The problem lies within the soil's crust, which is composed of cyanobacteria, algae, fungi, and lichens that grow in the dusty parts of the park. Factors that make Arches National Park sensitive to visitor damage include being a semiarid region, the scarce, unpredictable rainfall, lack of deep freezing, and lack of plant litter, which results in soils that have both a low resistance to, and slow recovery from, compressional forces such as foot traffic. Methods of indicating effects on the soil are cytophobic soil crust index, measuring of water infiltration, and t-tests that are used to compare the values from the undisturbed and disturbed areas.















Somebody forgot something.




Interesting how the sandstone is different colors depending on the lighting.






This arch used to be larger but in the 1990s, part of it broke off.




Sand Arch. I thought this place was cool.














Panoramic of Park Avenue. I thought it was neat how the color changed in the five minutes between taking these photos.



Some video from inside the park: The first one is from driving into the park; the second two are from driving back out of the park.





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