Arches National Park

Arches National Park is located in eastern Utah, close to Moab, Utah, in the United States and holds 76,679 acres of protected land. The park protects over 2,000 arches, which are made of sandstone, including Delicate Arch and many other geological formations. Forty-three of these arches have fallen since 1970, due to erosion. The highest point in the park is Elephant Butte, which reaches 5,653 feet, and the lowest point is found at the visitor center at an elevation of 4,085 feet.

The first humans to inhabit the Arches National Park area were Native Americans, including the Ancient Pueblo People and the Fremont people. European settlement began in 1855 during the Elk Mountain Mission, when a group of Mormon travelers attempted to settle the area. This attempt failed, but successful attempts occurred in the 1880’s, when farmers and ranchers settled the nearby area of Moab in Riverine Valley. The establishment of the park began when Frank A. Wadleigh, an employee of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, accompanied George L. Beam, a photographer, to the area in 1923. The two were invited to the area by Alexander Ringhoffer, who was interested in creating a hot spot for tourists. Because Wadleigh was captivated by the area Ringhoffer showed them, he suggested that it become a national monument to the National Park Service’s director Stephen T. Mather. After some confusion about the original area proposed to be a national monument, then known as Devil’s Garden, and after may surveys conducted by the government regarding boundaries, President Herbert Hoover designated the area as Arches National Monument in 1932. The national monument underwent several expansions between the years of 1938 and 1969, but in 1971, President Richard Nixon signed a bill approved in Congress to reduce the size of the monument, although this bill also designated the area as a national park.

The arches and other geological formations in Arches National Park were made when the salt bed that the area sits on began eroding. This erosion continued to occur, slowly removing younger layers of sand, earth, and rock, exposing older layers of sandstone. The climate in this area is nearly typical to that of desert habitats, although it does vary in temperature. The park receives most of its precipitation in October in the form of rainfall, and snowfall can occur in the winter months, but this is no common.  The hottest month in the park is typically July, with a record high of 107 degrees Fahrenheit. The park holds a large variety of wildlife including plants like yucca, pinyon pine, cliffrose, and prickly pear cactus and animal species like the red fox, desert bighorn sheep, mountain lion, and western rattlesnake.

Arches National Park prohibits rock climbing on natural bridges and archways, but visitors can climb in other areas of the park, although these activities must be regulated. The park offers many activities including camping, hiking, backpacking, biking, and touring, although some of these activities require permits. The park is a destination for astronomers, who can view the clear night skies without large levels of light pollution. Some of the park’s most popular features include the Petrified Dunes, Delicate Arch, and Balanced Rock.

Image Caption: Elephant Butte is a popular canyoneering route in Arches National Park. Credit: Michael Grindstaff/Wikipedia  (CC BY-SA 3.0)