Arches National Park Revisited

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Landscape Arch photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Protecting over 2,000 rock arches and other natural features, Arches National Park preserves one of the most unique locations in the United States. A vast array of intricate red rock formations, deep green plants, blue skies, and distant snow-capped peaks compose colorful landscapes that are as fascinating as they are beautiful. Covering nearly 120 square miles (311 square km) of high desert in eastern Utah, this park’s many hidden gems invite exploration.

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View along the Devils Garden Trail, photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Back in 2010 I visited Arches National Park as part of a college geology trip. I wrote about the features we explored and the geologic processes that created them. On that trip we explored the Moab Fault, Delicate Arch, Skyline Arch, Turret Arch, Double Arch, and The Windows.

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View of the La Sal Mountains from the Devils Garden Trail. Photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

This April I made a return visit to Arches and set out to see some new things. I decided to focus on the Devils Garden Trail near the north end of the park. On the drive in I passed the Three Gossips…

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The Three Gossips photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

…the Fiery Furnace…

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The Fiery Furnace photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

…Pothole Arch…

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Pothole Arch photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

…and some cool rock formations against the distant La Sal Mountains:

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Rock formations against the La Sal Mountains. Photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Once I arrived at the Devils Hall Trail I was greeted by the imposing sandstone spires and fins that frame the trailhead:

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Devils Garden Trailhead photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

The highlight of this trail is Landscape Arch, the longest natural arch in the world at just over 290 feet (88 m):

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Landscape Arch photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Since 1991 three large slabs of rock have fallen from this fragile feature, resulting the the permanent closure of a trail that runs beneath it. Over forty arches have collapsed in the park over the last few decades, and one might expect Landscape Arch to be the next. The erosional forces of water and ice that have sculpted these marvels never stop, and ultimately destroy what they have made.

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Landscape Arch interpretive sign photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

The Devils Garden Trail snakes around several other arches, although I only had time to see a few of them. Just north of Landscape Arch I saw Partition Arch:

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Partition Arch photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Spur trails also lead me to Tunnel Arch…

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Tunnel Arch photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

…as well as Pine Tree Arch:

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Pine Tree Arch photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

By my count I’ve seen only twelve of the over 2,000 arches at this park during two separate four hour visits. Attempting to see all of the arches here could take a person a great deal of time, especially since the majority of them are along backcountry trails well away from the roads. I don’t doubt that such an endeavor could be very rewarding, especially since there are many other things to see while hiking between the arches.

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Prairie dog photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

A wide variety of mammals including prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, mule deer, kangaroo rats, foxes, and bobcats roam the rocky landscapes of Arches. Several species of lizards and snakes are also present, especially during the summer. A variety of birds can also be found during different times of the year. In April I found this Mountain Bluebird…

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Mountain Bluebird photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

…as well as a Mountain Chickadee:

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Mountain Chickadee photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Some plants can be seen year-round, including Mormon tea…

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Mormon tea photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

…and the ubiquitous Utah juniper:

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Utah juniper against the red rocks. Photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Spring in particular welcomes a variety of wildflowers including canyonlands biscuitroot…

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Canyonlands biscuitroot photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

…as well as pale evening primrose:

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Pale evening primrose (Oenothera pallida, Onagraceae) photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

Unsurprisingly the arches take center stage at Arches National Park. They’ve very cool to see, and it can be a lot of fun to seek out specific ones. Other geologic features are also pretty interesting, as well as the plants and animals that call this park home.

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Road through the park. Photographed 04/15/2014 at Arches National Park, Utah.

The beautiful contrasting natural features of this park make it a real gem in the National Park Service, and one I highly recommend. Although I’ve been here twice now, I would happily return for further exploration.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Geology, National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Arches National Park Revisited

  1. I was there for the first time about 10 days after you, and loved every moment of our visit. I so want to go back and see more! Thank you for sharing your photos!

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