The world’s largest natural bridge
Actually, the largest natural stone bridge would be quite easy to reach if there were not the Lake Powell Reservoir in the way. This makes the journey by land impossible. Therefore, the vast sandstone arch is now accessible only from flooded Glen Canyon – and must be ‘hiked’ from the dock via one of the two official routes.
The ‘Rainbow Bridge’ got its name from the Navajos, who worshiped this stone arch called ‘Nonnezoshi’ (literally translated as ‘petrified rainbow’) as a sanctuary. Not only the 82 meter span of this natural wonder is impressive – also its height of nearly 88 meters. The natural bridge is 10 meters wide and 12 meters thick at its highest point.
The Rainbow Bridge – as well as the entire surrounding landscape of the Colorado Plateau – was created by the erosion in the last millions of years. The landscape here looked completely different 250 million years ago – as the geology of the huge stone arch tells us: the base consists of reddish-brown Kayenta sandstone, which was deposited more than 200 million years ago as the sand and mud of an inland sea. The stone bridge itself is made of Navajo sandstone, which is much younger at about 200 million years. The formation was formed by sand dunes formed after millions of years of extreme drought. In the next 100 million years, the dunes were buried by faulting more than 1,500 meters thick deposits. The great pressure caused the once soft dunes to be pressed. The decisive factor that contributed to the creation of today’s image was water. The whole region was not always as dry as it is today. Rivers – such as the Colorado River – cut the deep canyons and were the real ‘sculptors’.
Due to its uniqueness, the Natural Bridge was declared National Monument in 1910 by the then President William Taft – and is now managed by the National Park Service. With around 85,000 visitors annually, this National Monument is still a secret. Rainbow Bridge National Monument is located between the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the Navajo Nation. There are no access roads. The only access to the National Monument is via the Lake Powell / Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
location and size
The approximately 0.6 km² Rainbow Bridge National Monument is located in the south of Utah – just 7 km north of the border with Arizona – right on Lake Powell. The natural wonder can not be reached via roads. The only access is on Lake Powell.