Arches National Park

August 2006

The Arches National Park is just outside Moab, Utah.  In fact, there are three National Parks and one State Park that are easy day trips from Moab.  All four parks are well worth the effort to see.





I may have shown this picture more than once.  It is a view from our campsite in Moab.  This campground provides one of the most spectacular views of any campground we have seen.  Moab lies in a narrow canyon (Moab Canyon, strangely enough).  the opposite wall is about the same distance away.





The official name of this arch is Delicate Arch.  It was referred to by local cowboys as, among other things, the Schoolmarm's Bloomers.  It is perhaps the most widely known landmark in the area.  It is depicted on the Utah license plate and on a postage stamp commemorating the centennial statehood celebration in 1996.  The Olympic relay team for the 2002 Winter Olympics passed through the arch.

The arches are formed by erosion, mainly freezing/thawing of trapped water.  The process is still going on and new arches are being formed.  Keep your eyes open when you visit the park.  If you find a new arch, you get to name it.  Currently, there are more than 2000 cataloged arches.





This is known as Double Arch.  It was probably named by a tourist with little imagination.





This is called Two Arches; again showing a definite lack of imagination.





This is called Balanced Rock for obvious reasons.  It is not a unique name.  The are many others in the area and in nearby Monument Valley.





This formation shows a little more imagination.  It is called The Three Gossips.  The lady on the left in her sunbonnet, bustle and long dress is most obvious.





This one is called Sheep Rock.  It does require a good deal more imagination.





To me the geology of the area is fascinating.  This area was covered by the sea about 300 million years ago.  As the sea evaporated, a layer of salt was left.  Flooding and further incursions of the ocean covered the salt layer with sand and debris.  As this debris deepened, layers of sandstone formed.  Salt is unstable under pressure and it began to flow like toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube..  This movement caused deep cracks to form through the sandstone layers.  Continued erosion caused these cracks to widen into deep canyons and eventually only the tall, thin canyon walls, called fins, were left.  As these fins eroded, the weaker parts collapsed leaving the rock formations you can see today.