Owachomo Bridge which is the oldest Bridge in the Park

Friday: Start of our journey south to Phoenix

Decided to make our way south to Phoenix via a couple of attractions and take our time enjoying the last few days of this adventure in our big white beastie, which we have grown more fond of with the passage of time, it has actually done us proud and is a real workhouse

Our drive from Torrey to Natural Bridges State Park turned out to be a fascinating drive through a wide range of desert canyon landscapes. The abiding memories are of:

  • at times long straight roads, a ribbon of grey in a red brown desolate landscapes, contrasting with roads winding round the bottom of the Bute’s. A larger than life landscape, mind-boggling in its expansiveness and grandeur.
  • coming across the marshy start to Lake Powell in Glen Canyon and our first view of the Colorado River, a wide brown river coming seemingly out of nothing. Everything  else was very dry except for along river wash beds where there were cottonwoods, other brush.
  • A desolate, but interesting landscape after Capitol Reef. It looked like photos of area round Petrified Forest Park, comprised of mud and siltstone mountain ranges. As the rock is softer fantastic stone ribs are formed extending  down from the bluffs . The Road is called the Blue Dugway after the blueish shade of the shale rocks the road was cut into to make a pass from Capitol Reef to Hanksville (where we got a very welcome coffee and were surprised by the green fields and water standing in then! What a land of contrasts)
  • Rocky desert landscape extending for miles and miles, plains with rocky buttresses intersected by canyons and gullies, various hues of red and golden cream covered by sage bush and small green juniper and piñon trees
  • Makes you think of early explorers mapping and settling this harsh landscape, was it wetter then? Would have been hard to travel through and navigation must have been a nightmare with lots of false canyons leading to nothing but high cliffs. Even today, in isolated communities there is the need to be self reliant to survive.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Link to detailed route page and map click on route title

Sipapu Bridge - Natural Bridges

  • Distance 3.19 km
  • Time 0 s
  • Speed 0.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 1763 m
  • Peak 1894 m
  • Climb 491 m
  • Descent 490 m
June 26, 2018 11:58 pm

Owachomo Bridge (Natural Bridges Monument)

  • Distance 1.15 km
  • Time 0 s
  • Speed 0.0 km/h
  • Min altitude 1800 m
  • Peak 1865 m
  • Climb 72 m
  • Descent 71 m
June 22, 2018 12:05 am
A few interesting facts we learnt:
  • A National Monument is established by Presidential decree (in this case Roosevelt) not an act of Congress
  • a Bridge differs from an arch in that it is formed by rivers cutting through a block of rock, often the head of a large looping meander where the rock wall is narrowest, resulting in a Bridge. An Arch tends to be formed by other erosionional  forces, mainly frost action and seeping water
  • this NM has the second and third largest Natural rock spans in the US (Landscape Arch in Arches being the largest.

There is a circular scenic drive of 9 miles round the White and Armstrong Canyons, old river canyons cut into the sandstone plateau. The road twists and turns as the Canyon meanders driven by the historic path of the river.

Mike resting under Owachomo span

The first trailhead we came to was for Sipapu Bridge, the largest. It was a lovely hike down even in the midday sun, with a cooling breeze blowing. About halfway down we came to a long shelf which the path follows to an overlook point. Great photo opp. Also there was an old ruined store room where the Puebloan people would have stored their food, and perhaps lived.

We carried on down, admiring the views of the bridge and the large trees in the valley bottom, including shrub oaks which seemed very out of place in this arid hot environment. Enjoyed a cereal bar in the bottom sitting on an old fallen tree trunk in the shade happy with the solitude.

Decided to just visit the viewpoint for Kachina Bridge before heading off for the trailhead of Owachomo Bridge which is the oldest Bridge in the Park, hence its narrow thickness. Before our hike down made the most of being in our RV with a turkey and salami salad toasted wrap and cup of tea. The hike down was short and sweet, the knob on the top of the bridge which gives it its name was very visible ( looked like a Mexican sombrero hat to me!) The bridge was delightful.

Gooseneck State Park

On the way back up we commented that although on this holiday some of our plans have been thwarted due to the conditions, it has given us the opportunity to experience different wonderful places.

I am now sitting at our camp spot for the night, with a beer, overlooking the goosenecks ‘finest entrenched meanders in the USA’ of the San Juan river. Good recommendation from the Natural Bridges visitor centre. A really fantastic and unusual location for a State Park, on the edge of cliffs overlooking 3 huge meanders of the river 1300 ft below. The river flows a distance of over 6 miles whilst advancing only 1.5 miles west on its way to Lake Powell. The canyon was formed with the uplift of the Colorado Plateau and the river eroded down through the rock layers.

Although a rather desolate place it has an engaging beauty like no other we have experienced.

One other fantastic experience from today was the drive down Rt261.  As we turned off the main highway on the Cedar Mesa we were warned that the road turned to gravel in 23 miles and was not suitable for large vehicles!  Undeterred we ventured on and when we encountered the Moki Dugway gravel road we saw why, switchback after switchback on a precipitous gravel road which wound its way down 1200ft to the valley below with an average  gradient of 11%! Fortunately the road was it good condition and our mighty white beastie took it in its stride.

Below is a video taken of our time in Natural Bridge Monument, followed by a compilation of our photos

Compilation of photos, press play to view