Natural Bridges preserves some of the best examples
of natural stone arches in the southwest. On a tree-covered
mesa next to deep sandstone canyons, three natural bridges formed
when meandering streams slowly cut through the canyon walls. In honor
of the Native Americans that made this area their home, the bridges
are named "Kachina," "Owachomo" and "Sipapu."
One of the structures at the Horsecollar Ruin site
Repeatedly occupied and abandoned during prehistoric
times, Natural Bridges was first used during the Archaic period, from
7000 B.C. to A.D. 500. Only the rock art and stone tools left by hunter-gatherer
groups reveal that humans lived here then. Around AD 700, ancestors
of modern Puebloan people moved onto the mesa tops to dry farm and later
left as the natural environment changed. Around A.D. 1100, new migrants
from across the San Juan River moved into small, single-family houses
near the deepest, best-watered soils throughout this area. In the 1200's,
farmers from Mesa Verde migrated here, but by the 1300's the ancestral
Puebloans migrated south. Navajos and Paiutes lived in the area during
later times, and Navajo oral tradition holds that their ancestors lived
among the early Puebloans. Explore the Area
There are many overlooks and features along the scenic drive at Natural
of the more popular ones can be reached via moderately strenuous descents
into the canyons. Here you can learn about these features before you
arrive in the park.
Nature & ScienceThe momentary stillness of Canyon Country is deceptive.
The natural processes which formed the what appears to be an eternal
landscape are still at work, continually changing the face of the
earth and life at Natural Bridges.
Canyon Country Outdoor Education, a cooperative venture between the
National Park Service, local school districts and nonprofit organizations,
leads school groups on field trips throughout the area. Educators can download the teacher's
guide for grades one through six.
Accessibility The visitor center and restrooms are accessible to
all persons. The campground has no designated site for disabled persons
but has several sites and one rest room accessible. The three bridge
overlook trails are accessible via a concrete sidewalk, however the
sidewalk to the Kachina Bridge viewpoint may not be accessible with
a standard wheelchair due to its slope
Activities with pets are very limited at Natural Bridges.
Pets are allowed on paved trails and roads but must be leashed at
all times. Pets are not allowed on hiking trails or in the backcountry.ServicesFood, gas, lodging and similar services are not available
in Naural Bridges. These are available in nearby towns like Blanding,
UT and Cortez,
CO. Visit the San Juan County Travel Council for more information.
In 1883, prospector Cass Hite wandered
up White Canyon from his base camp along the Colorado River in search
of gold. What he found instead were three magnificent bridges water
had sculpted from stone. In 1904, National Geographic Magazine publicized
the bridges, and in 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt established Natural
Bridges National Monument, creating Utah's first National Park Service
Naming the Bridges
Several names have been applied to the
bridges. First named "President," "Senator" and
"Congressman" by Cass Hite, the bridges were renamed "Augusta,"
"Caroline" and "Edwin" by later explorer groups.
As the park was expanded to protect nearby Puebloan structures, the
General Land Office assigned the Hopi names "Sipapu," "Kachina"
and "Owachomo" in 1909. Sipapu means "the place of emergence,"
an entryway by which the Hopi believe their ancestors came into this
world. Kachina is named for rock art on the bridge that resembles symbols
commonly used on kachina dolls. Owachomo means "rock mound,"
a feature atop the bridge's east abutment.
Nature at Work
Stand for a moment at
an overlook. Nothing in the scope of your vision moves. Strain your
ears for a sound; silence alone greets them. The desert landscape seems
eternally unchanging. But stay a moment longer and a small animal sends
a pebble clattering down the slickrock. Stay for an hour and the wind
picks up, blowing sand and dust against you. Tomorrow a thunderstorm
may send a flood twisting down the course of White Canyon. In one month,
several tons of rock may thunder down from Kachina Bridge as it did
in June of 1992 when 4,000 tons fell from the bridge. If you return
next year, Owachomo Bridge may no longer be standing. The momentary
stillness of Canyon Country is deceptive; the same processes which formed
the seemingly eternal landscape you are enjoying today are still at
work, continually changing the face of the earth.
Commerical bus and van shuttles service nearby towns. There is no
bus service to the monument itself. Public Transportation There is
no public transportation to Natural Bridges. Car
The entrance to Natural Bridges is at the end of Highway 275, which
is roughly 35 miles west of Blanding,
UT on Highway 95. Driving time from Blanding is roughly 45 minutes. Plane
Commercial airlines serve Cortez,
CO, Grand Junction, CO, Salt Lake City, UT as well as other cities
in the southwest. GETTING AROUND Visitors usually tour the scenic drive
by car or bicycle. Operating Hours & Seasons
Natural Bridges is open year-round. The visitor center is open daily
from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The visitor center is closed on Thanksgiving
Day, December 25th and January 1st. ENTRANCE FEES Individuals: $3 (Good for 7 Days)
This fee applies to motorcycles, bicycles and walk-ins (per person). Vehicles: $6 (Good for 7 days)
This fee includes all occupants of a vehicle. Local Passport: $25 (Good for
Good for entrance to Arches,
and Natural Bridges. Commercial Tours
Fee depends upon the capacity of the vehicle. 1 to 6 passenger vehicles
are charged $25 + $5 per person. 7 to 25 passenger vehicles are charged
$40. 26 or more passenger vehicles are charged $100. CAMPING FEES Sites at the campground are $10 per
night. All sites are first-come, first-served. Weather
Southeast Utah is part of the Colorado Plateau, a
"high desert" region that experiences wide temperature fluctuations,
sometimes over 40 degrees in a single day. The temperate (and most
popular) seasons are spring (April through May) and fall (mid-September
through October), when daytime highs average 60 to 80 F and lows average
30 to 50 F. Summer temperatures often exceed 100 F, making strenuous
exercise difficult. Late summer monsoon season brings violent storm
cells which often cause flash floods. Winters are cold, with highs
averaging 30 to 50 F, and lows averaging 0 to 20 F. Though large snowfalls
are uncommon (except in nearby mountains), even small amounts of snow
or ice can make local trails and roads impassable.