The gang of six got settled into the Wahweap RV & Campground on October 17, and took the pontoon boat out onto Lake Powell the next day. The day was mostly sunny, but fairly cool. Our destination was Rainbow Bridge.
A natural arch, or natural bridge is a natural rock formation where an arch has formed with an opening underneath. Natural arches are formed from narrow fins composed of sandstone or limestone with steep, often vertical, cliff faces. The formations become narrower due to erosion over geologic time scales. The softer rock stratum erodes away creating rock shelters, or alcoves, on opposite sides of the formation beneath the relatively harder caprock, above it. The alcoves erode further into the formation eventually meeting underneath the harder caprock layer, thus creating an arch. The caprock itself continues to erode after an arch has formed, which will ultimately lead to collapse. The Natural Arch and Bridge Society identifies a bridge as a subtype of arch that is primarily water-formed. [Indeed. Bill & Colleen report that a number of years ago they were able to boat all the way up to and directly under the bridge. Today, because of receding lake depth, there is a significant hike from the Park wharf to the bridge. CTS ]
Rainbow Bridge is often described as the world’s highest natural bridge. The span of Rainbow Bridge was reported in 1974 to be 275 feet, but a laser measurement in 2007 has resulted in a span of 234 feet. At the top it is 42 feet thick and 33 feet wide. The bridge, which is of cultural importance to a number of area Native American tribes, has been designated a Traditional Cultural Property by the National Park Service.
Rainbow Bridge is one of the most accessible of the large arches of the world. It can be reached by a three-hour boat ride on Lake Powell [which is what we did] followed by a mile-long walk [not really that long] from the National Park wharf in Bridge Canyon, or by hiking several days overland from a trailhead on the south side of Lake Powell (obtain a permit from the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, Arizona).
The weather not looking favorable on October 19, we took a day off from boating and instead drove up to the Northern Rim of Grand Canyon. The weather wasn’t perfect for that either, since the mostly cloudy skies provided sub-optimal illumination for the colorful canyon sides. But then, just as we were on our way back to our vehicle as the sun approached the horizon, the sun broke through for a few precious moments. Joan and I quickly grabbed a few consolation shots.
On October 20 we returned to the Lake despite a rather grim forecast of high winds later in the day. We told ourselves that we weren’t going far and that we would be protected by the cliffs to the west, since we planned to go south to the Glen Canyon Dam. On our way, we lallygagged at the marina, spending time looking at the huge pontoon boats moored and docked there, and perusing the gift and nautical shop. When we arrived in the vicinity of the dam, we had a leisurely snack of cheese, crackers, grapes and margaritas. And then the wind hit. We soon discovered that the winds were coming from the direction in which we needed to travel in order to get back to our launch ramp, and that the wind-swept waves were hitting the front of the boat and splashing up onto we hapless passengers. To make matters worse, the wind began to threaten to rip the canvas bimini, and so we had to stop and disassemble that. When we reached the launch ramp, we realized that the wind and waves at that site were broadside, rendering impossible getting the boat back onto the trailer. So we retreated to another ramp that was more protected, moved the truck and trailer to our new ramp, and ultimately arrived safely back at our campground, albeit more than a little cold and wet.
While Barb stayed back to do some RV chores, the rest of us drove out to Horseshoe Bend, on the Colorado River about 4 miles southwest of Page. It is accessible via hiking a 1.5-mile round trip from U.S. Route 89, and can be viewed from the steep cliff above the river. The distance from the overlook to the Colorado River below is about 1,000 feet.
On October 21 the brothers and their wives got up early and joined a guided visit to Antelope Canyon. Barb and I had been there the year before (see our blog coverage here), so Barb did some laundry while I worked on our overdue blogs. When they returned, Matt & Joan split off and headed northward toward Utah’s National Parks and the rest of us returned to Parks, where we spent a few days cleaning our RVs and getting ours ready to be tucked into an RV storage facility not far from Parks. Late in our preparations we realized that the Chevy Tracker could fit into our rented space as well if only it could be put in sideways in front of the RV. Bill had four stands on wheels, and so that is what we did. We had inches to spare.