Monday, April 1, 2024

Arches is a national park from another time and place

That long-ago image of Delicate Arch from Life Magazine in Arches National Park must have been imprinted on my mind because this jaw dropping-at-every-turn place has been on my bucket list my whole life. A lot of the park - a few miles north of Moab, Utah - reminds me of scenes from Planet of the Apes (“the Forbidden Zone”) and other Hollywood sci-fi and Western classics. 

We took an 8-mile hike around the Primitive Loop on Friday - our first of three full days based in Moab - and it was epic the whole way. Even the last two miles, when we were all getting pretty exhausted, was spectacular, as we had to cross and climb massive, sky-high rock formations. The start and end of the trail were fairly busy with voyagers, but the entire middle of the loop, the furthest parts away from the parking, were nearly all our own.

With 2,000 or so natural sandstone arches, the park has the highest density of arches anywhere on Earth. The salt beds under the ground are what have created the arches. 

It became a national monument in 1929 (after resistance from Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover made it happen) and a protected national park in 1971. The fact that nearly 2 million people visit Arches each year is very tough on the fragile ecosystem, as compression from footsteps makes it very difficult for the soil to recover from human contact.

Other interesting tidbits:
  • Humans have occupied the area since the last ice age ended 10,000 years ago. Spanish missionaries saw American-Indian tribes there 700 years ago but Europeans didn’t settle there until Mormons did so in 1855. They didn’t last long before moving down to Moab. 
  • FDR and LBJ significantly enlarged the size of the park over the years, Dwight Eisenhauer allowed for a portion of road to go through it, and Richard Nixon designated it a national park but shrunk the size of it considerably in the process.
  • Writer Edward Abbey was a park ranger there from 1956 to 1957 and turned his journals during that time into his classic Desert Solitaire. 
  • In terms of wildlife, we didn’t see much besides kangaroo rats and prickly pear cacti, but there are actually a lot of foxes, cougars, rattlesnakes, and other plants and animals.

No comments:

Post a Comment