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Arizona bridge carved by nature draws visitors

By Greg Goodsell
June 3rd, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A bridge carved by the hands of Mother Nature, after centuries of water erosion continues to draw visitors to the far southern part of Utah. The reddish sandstone forms a perfect, beautiful arch, and is accessible to visitors only by foot, boat or horse.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Proclaimed a national monument 100 years ago, the bridge has been visited by the likes of President Teddy Roosevelt to learn about the area's rich geological history.

"Celebrating that monument status is special in many regards, and I invite visitors to try and just grasp some idea of what the American West will be like in 100 years," Chuck Smith, an interpretive ranger for the National Park Service says. Smith is the monument's only full-time employee.

"You don't see interpretive signs or text on side," Smith says of the monument. "All you see is what should be reflected there, the ambiance - that isolated slice of the Colorado Plateau."

Some people choose to hike 18 miles from the northeast side of Navajo Mountain or the 16 miles from the Rainbow Lodge ruins on the southwest side of the mountain. The lodge burnt down in 1951.

Most of the bridge's 90,000 annual visitors take a boat from Page, Arizona. The bridge is then accessible through a brief hike. The 50-mile water trip across Lake Powell, made possible by the creation of Glen Canyon Dam in the 1960s, gives way to views of cathedral-like canyons and geologic formations that are hundreds of millions of years old.

The bridge is at the base of Navajo Mountain, about eight miles north of the Arizona state line. Five Native American tribes in the area consider it sacred. Two Native guides led an exploration party there in 1909, whose goal was to have it set aside as a national monument. 
 
Wally Brown, a Navajo man from Page, said tribal members have made offerings for thousands of years to gods at the bridge.

"People who are sincere can look at that national monument and say, 'there were people here hundreds of years ago, and they're still here, and a culture has sustained them,'" Brown says.

The monument is administered by Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, under the National Park Service.

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