Natural Bridges, Utah

We are currently staying in Monticello, Utah which is more or less in the southeast corner of the state.  We’ve had poor weather the first three days we were here, with mixed snow and rain on Mother’s Day and temperatures in the mid-20’s each night.  Today the weather finally cleared up and we took a trip to Natural Bridges, about an hour and a half drive southwest of us.

Monticello is located under the Abajo Mountains, which are called the Blue Mountains locally.  There were a few streaks of snow when we first got here, but after the stormy weather this weekend, it has been re-topped with new snow.

The Abajo Mountains
The Abajo Mountains

The drive to Natural Bridges was through some pretty spectacular scenery.   Natural Bridges itself is part of a layer of Permian sandstone that underlays several layers of very reddish rocks.  The sandstone gets cut into deep and narrow canyons by streams and are very picturesque.  Where the sandstone is on the surface it often gets sculpted into very interesting forms.

Natural Bridges 02

This has to have happened through the action of water but given the location of some of these forms it is real hard to see how the water got there.

There is a 9-mile loop drive through the Natural Bridges Park.  It is possible to hike to the base of each of the Natural Bridges, but each trail is a mile or more in length and goes several hundred feet vertically.  Not particularly wheelchair accessible.  There were overlooks with concrete walkways however, that Susan and I could get up and down with a bit of huffing and puffing on my part (in my defense I’ll say that the walkways were steep and Natural Bridges Park is at 6500 feet altitude).

Natural Bridges 03 Sipapu Bridge

Sipapu Bridge

Although it was very sunny it was also cool and windy and we’re glad we brought our jackets. The speed limit on the loop drive was 25 MPH but after every stop when we got back on the drive within moments there would be somebody on our bumper trying to go faster.  The drive between the vantage points was very scenic so we both wonder what the hurry is.

Kachina Bridge
Kachina Bridge

The one overlook I couldn’t take Susan to was the one at Kachina Bridge.  Although it was paved, it was so steep it should actually have been stairs in spots.  I might have been able to get her down it but she would have been scared to death (she doesn’t do too well with heights) and one slip on my part and she would likely have gone sailing over the edge since there were hardly any railings.  Even if I got her down to the overlook I’m really not sure I would have been able to get her back up, even with frequent rests, it was that steep.

Natural Bridges 06 Canyon downstream Kachina Bridge
Canyon downstream of the Kachina Bridge

The canyon between the bridges is very narrow and very deep.  Most of the streambeds and washes we passed over on the way to the Natural Bridges park were dry but as I mentioned we got rain over the weekend and it was enough apparently to leave pools of water in places.

The most easily accessible bridge of them all (short walkway that was not nearly as steep as the others) was the Owachomo Bridge and it was the most delicate and arch-like of them all.

Natural Bridges 05 Owachomo Bridge
Owachomo Bridge

My best camera croaked about a month ago.  Since then I’ve been using one of our older snapshot cameras.  Even though I’ve been paying careful attention to the settings and to stabilizing it when taking photos I haven’t been happy with the way they’ve been coming out. I’ll have to send our good camera back to Canon and get it fixed, but we’re on the road and moving around a lot so I don’t know when I’ll get it back.

The scenery at Natural Bridges and on the trip there was spectacular and quite different from anything we’ve seen before.  I could easily see somebody spending months in this area doing nothing but taking landscape photographs and not running out of subject matter.

We’d give Natural Bridges a C+ for handicap accessibility.  The Visitor Center was fine and had a handicap accessible bathroom.  There were plenty of vantage points and the overlooks had concrete walkways, but realistically the walkways at the first two bridges, Sipapu and Kachina, were far too steep for anyone in a wheelchair without a lot of assistance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *