ArchesNP

Arches National Park contains the largest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world.
Located just outside of Moab, Utah, it contains over 2000 natural arches in a geologic paradise of
Entrada Sandstone lying atop an enormous salt bed in the high desert of Southeastern Utah. The
pressure of the rock caused the salt to move, fracturing the rock and allowing erosion to form
fins, which over time were further eroded, forming the arches for which the Park is famous.

This page contains 50 images of red rock fins, spires, hoodoos and arches.

Click an image to open a larger version.
Use your back button to return to this page.

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Arches National Park

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Dinah_the_Vernal_Dinosaur_1389


Dinah the Vernal Dinosaur 1389

Dinah the Dinosaur is not at Arches National Park.
Then why did you include her on this page, you ask?
 

I drove to Moab, Utah from Yellowstone National Park, where I had just completed ten days of training photographers how to shoot wildlife. It is a long drive (700 miles), and by the time I reached Vernal I had driven over 470 miles (nothing but miles and miles of relatively empty space). Not only was I ready for a short break, but when I saw this from the highway, I simply had to pull off and shoot it. I don’t often see a 40 foot tall bubble-gum pink fiberglas dinosaur with eyelashes.

Dinah is sort of the unofficial mascot for northeastern Utah. In 1958, George Millecam, the owner of the Dine-a-Ville Motel, decided to build a dinosaur park to attract customers. His wife Helen designed Dinah and build a 5” model which was copied to make this 40 foot fiberglas version. Vernal Utah is near the western entrance of the Dinosaur National Monument, and there are numerous dinosaur-related statues, diners, shops, etc., as you can imagine. There are also tons of tiny copies of Dinah floating round... she’s a popular girl.

The dinosaur park didn’t do that well, and George sold the motel, which eventually folded and the statue was donated to the city of Vernal and mounted outside of town. Several of the other denizens of George Millecam’s Dinosaur Park are displayed in other towns in the area as well.
 

And now... on to Arches National Park.
 

 

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Delicate Arch at Dawn 1407

Delicate Arch framing the La Sal Mountains at dawn.

Most images of Delicate Arch are shot at sunset, and nearly everyone who visits Arches
has read that they should go in the late afternoon. I decided to catch the sunrise instead to
avoid crowding and to attempt to get shots of Delicate Arch without the inevitable tourists.

Delicate Arch is a mile and a half one way from Wolfe Ranch. It starts with a well-marked trail
to a footbridge over Salt Wash which leads to a large exposed face of slickrock (sandstone).
During the day, you follow a widely-spaced group of cairns (stacked rocks) which mark out a
general direction, but in the dark finding the cairns is a hit or miss affair. It is a large expanse
of rock, so generally going uphill diagonally across the rock face gets you to the next section
where you cross washes, go around rocks, and eventually near the top of the plateau where
you cross a narrow ledge 150 feet over Winter Camp Wash (in the dark), where you reach
the top of the plateau and finally see Delicate Arch. Getting there before sunrise may be
more difficult, but there are few people (which is rare in Arches) and the view is superb.

Winter_Camp_Wash_Arches_NP_1411


Winter Camp Wash Arches NP 1411

A view across Winter Camp Wash towards the Delicate Arch Viewpoint about a mile away to the South.

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Winter Camp Wash Arches NP 1421

This image was taken exactly ten minutes later at a wider angle and shows the change in light from red to gold.

Delicate Arch is the most widely-recognized feature in Arches National Park, and is a symbol of the state of Utah. Originally known as the “Cowboy Chaps” due to its resemblance to leather leg covers used by ranchers, it was named by Frank Beckwith, who surveyed the newly formed National Monument in 1933-34. Its image is on the Utah license plates and postage stamps, and it served as a waypoint for the Olympic Torchbearers, who ran under the arch on the relay to the 2002 Winter Olympics.

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Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1428

Delicate Arch and Winter Camp Wash in the golden light
of sunrise. Morning light on the arch is on the other side.

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1504


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1504

A similar angle taken about 90 minutes later, after
the end of what photographers call “the golden hour”.

To shoot the morning light hitting Delicate Arch, you have to descend a 45 to 50 degree slickrock slope
beyond the arch which leads to a roughly 100 foot drop into Winter Camp Wash. The Entrada Sandstone
is called slickrock because it is composed of very fine grains of sand, and even when dry it is quite slippery.
There are some natural potholes in the rock which offer purchase, but it is definitely a precarious perch.

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1436


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1436

A sunrise sequence on Delicate Arch. This image was taken at 22mm from the slope below the arch.

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1442


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1442

This image was taken at 14mm, closer and at a lower angle. 1442 was taken 9 minutes after the previous image.

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1446


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1446

A close low angle shot at 17mm, polarized at 60% to increase contrast in the sky and color saturation of the rock.

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1455


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1455

This shot near the end of the sunrise was also taken at 17mm from a little further away and with 25% polarization.

DelicateArch_PolarizationComparison


Delicate Arch Polarization Comparison M
(1505 x 1200, 431 KB)

A comparison of two polarization settings. On the left is a 25% setting which darkens the sky a little
and adds color saturation. On the right is a 60% setting which darkens the sky more and increases
the saturation further. Generally, I consider 50%-60% to be the maximum acceptable polarization,
as the sky is getting fairly dark, so I often polarize at 10% to 30% as seen in many of the images
on this page. Some people prefer extra contrast and saturation, so I will take one at 50%-60%.

Both of these images are available. The numbers are 1460 (25%, left) and 1466 (60%, right).

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1467


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1467

After the sun is fully up, you can see just how smooth the
sandstone on this steep slope really is. Watch your footing.

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1474


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1474

A 25mm shot from further up the slope. The previous image was taken at 17mm and from a lower angle.

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1479


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1479

A steep angle from directly below Delicate Arch, shot from lower down the steep slope at 17mm.

Delicate Arch was originally an Entrada Sandstone fin which formed over a period of about 70,000
years due to wind and water erosion and freezing and thawing ice wearing off softer portions of rock.

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1488


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1488

One more shot taken from the back side of Delicate Arch, this one
at 45mm from the top of the slope, level with the base of the Arch.

This is probably going to be a bit hard to believe, but in 1947, the
Arches Custodian got the brilliant idea that Delicate Arch should be
preserved for humanity by use of a plaster jacket, hair spray, or spraying
the arch with silicone epoxy. His secondary argument was that its condition
presented a danger to visitors, as it may collapse on them. The regional
supervisor was enthusiastically behind the project, and kept bugging
the staff at Arches NP about it for a decade. They waited him out.

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1495


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1495
(400 KB)

From the ledge atop Winter Camp Wash Amphitheater (the bowl below the base of Delicate Arch).
Delicate Arch was eroded from a Jurassic-period Entrada Sandstone fin like other features at Arches.

It is exceptionally challenging getting shots of Delicate Arch without massive quantities of tourists.
Early in the morning is a very good time to be there for this reason. Not that many folks want to try this
hike in the dark (there were two people with me at sunrise, and lots of folks arrived as I was leaving).

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1502


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1502

Two images from the narrow side of Delicate Arch, this one taken at 24mm from the ledge over the Amphitheater...

Delicate_Arch_at_Sunrise_1508


Delicate Arch at Sunrise 1508

... and this shot at 14mm from about two feet off the ground (a low angle reduced reflections for better saturation).

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Scenic Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

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Direct Link to images of Arches National Park:

Arches National Park

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Winter_Camp_Wash_Arches_NP_1513


Winter Camp Wash Arches NP 1513
(521 KB)

Winter Camp Wash from the ledge near the end of the trail at Delicate Arch.
Imagine walking across a narrow ledge over this drop... in the dark. What fun.

UtePetroglyphs_WolfeRanch_1518c


Ute Petroglyphs Wolfe Ranch 1518c
(detail crop, 784 KB)

Near the Wolfe Ranch footbridge over Salt Wash at the beginning of the Delicate Arch trail, a
side trail leads to a petroglyph panel depicting Bighorn Sheep, dogs, and horses with riders.
This panel is believed to have been carved at least in part by Utes, as horses did not arrive
until the Spanish met Utes and Paiutes in the 1600s. While some of the petroglyphs might
have been carved earlier by Anasazi or Fremont people, the condition of the weathering
seems to indicate that these petroglyphs were all carved within a similar time period.

Ute_Petroglyph_Wolfe_Ranch_1522


Ute Petroglyph Wolfe Ranch 1522
(580 KB)

This glyph is possibly an anthropomorphic spirit figure. While the figure is somewhat abstract, there does seem to be a recognizable head and body, and the headdress is somewhat similar to those seen in Fremont petroglyphs from an earlier period. For a page on Fremont and Anasazi Petroglyphs from the Four Corners area, click the text link:

Fremont and Anasazi Petroglyphs
(link will open in a new tab or window)

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Ute Petroglyph Wolfe Ranch 1520
(688 KB)

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Ute Petroglyphs Wolfe Ranch 1524
(602 KB)

A wider view of the Ute Hunting Panel at Wolfe Ranch, showing images at the edges of the rock.

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Wolfe Ranch Cabin Arches NP 1536
(689 KB)

Wolfe Ranch Cabin (Bar DX Ranch) at the entrance to the Delicate Arch trail. John Wesley Wolfe moved west to Utah from Ohio in 1898, where he expected the drier climate to help him tolerate the pain of a Civil War wound. He built a one room cabin where he lived with his son Fred. In 1906, his daughter Flora, her husband and their two children moved to the Bar DX ranch. Flora was shocked at the primitive dirt floored cabin, and convinced her father to build a new cabin with a wood floor and a dugout cellar. This is that cabin.

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Wolfe Ranch Cabin Arches NP 1538
(744 KB)

The Wolfes only stayed for two years more, moving to Moab in 1908. They sold the ranch in 1910 and moved back to Ohio. In 1914 the ranch was acquired by Marvin Turnbow, the first custodian of Arches National Monument (it did not become a National Park until 1971). On the first maps of the area, the cabin is designated as the Turnbow Cabin. In 1970, Wolfe’s granddaughter visited the ranch and provided information on the history of Wolfe Ranch, one of the earliest settlements in Southeastern Utah, and the cabin regained its original name.

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Landscape Arch Arches NP X2394
(557 KB)

Located in Devil’s Garden in the northern section of Arches National Park, Landscape Arch has the longest span of any natural arch in the world at over 290 feet.

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Landscape Arch Arches NP X2395c
(526 KB)

Due to three rockfalls since 1991 of enormous slabs from the thinnest part of the arch, the trail passing under the arch has been closed by the National Park Service.

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Dead Tree Devil’s Garden Arches NP X2397
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This photogenic dead tree next to a sandstone fin is on the Devil’s Garden trail near Landscape Arch.

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The Organ Arches NP 1541
(572 KB)

A side view of The Organ in the Courthouse Towers area.

The Courthouse Towers area is in the Southern section of the Park near Moab. Courthouse Towers are Entrada Sandstone spires and fins rising high above the desert floor.

Park_Avenue_Fins_Arches_NP_1546


Park Avenue Fins Arches NP 1546
(357 KB)

These fins are a part of the Park Avenue formation in the Courthouse Towers. The Park Avenue trail passes through a canyon at the base a cliff face containing enormous monolithic fins that reminded the first viewers of the New York City skyline, inspiring the Park City name.

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The Organ Arches NP 1549
(483 KB)

An oblique view of the 700 foot tall sandstone fin called The Organ in the Courthouse Towers area.

Signs for The Organ were constantly removed and placed at the foot of one of the
towering phallic spires in the Park, so the rangers have given up replacing the sign.
I’m sure they laughed the first few times, but after a while it must have been tedious.

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Three Gossips and Sheep Rock Arches NP 1544
(502 KB)

Also in the Courthouse Towers area are the two formations known as the
Three Gossips (left) and Sheep Rock. The Three Gossips stand 450 feet over
the desert floor, and are 50 feet thick. The arched left side of Sheep Rock is
thought to be the remains of a collapsed double arch. Detail shots below.

Three_Gossips_Arches_NP_1547


Three Gossips Arches NP 1547
(519 KB)

The Three Gossips (also called the Three Graces) from the base of the talus slope below the pedestal.

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Sheep Rock Arches NP 1554
(448 KB)

Sheep Rock overlooked by the moon. I used a polarizing filter to darken the sky and increase color saturation.

SheepRock_PolarizationComparison


Sheep Rock Polarization Comparison
(534 KB)

A comparison of two shots of Sheep Rock with and without polarization.
The polarizing filter increases contrast in the sky and color saturation on the rock.

Both images are available (1551, left, no polarization and 1554, right, 25% polarization).

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Scenic Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

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Direct Link to images of Arches National Park:

Arches National Park

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Balanced_Rock_and_Bubo_Tower_1567


Balanced Rock and Bubo Tower 1567
(459 KB)

Balanced Rock is a 128 foot eroded column called a hoodoo.  A hoodoo is a spire
of relatively soft rock topped by a harder rock which erodes at a slower rate, creating
an irregularly-shaped column. In this case, Balanced Rock is Entrada Sandstone atop
a narrow band of rock called Dewey Bridge Rock, which erodes at a much faster rate.
Balanced Rock is at the western end of the Windows Area of Arches National Park.

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Bubo Tower Climbers Arches NP 1558

Bubo Tower with climbers at the summit. Bubo Tower is a popular climbing destination from July to December.

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Balanced Rock Arches NP 1571

The 55 foot tall cap of Balanced Rock stands atop a
Dewey Bridge rock collar which forms its pedestal.

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Balanced Rock and Bubo Tower 1565
(428 KB)

Balanced Rock and Bubo Tower framed by a dead tree.

The Entrada Sandstone caprock is the size of three school buses.
It weighs nearly 3600 tons (over 7 million pounds). The rock is going
to fall eventually (there used to be a smaller version nearby called
“Chip off the Old Block” which collapsed in the winter of 1975),
but the Park Service still thinks it is stable... for now at least.

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Cove of Caves Windows Area Arches NP 1574
(735 KB)

The Cove of Caves in the Windows area, between the Garden of Eden and Elephant Butte. Out of picture to the right is the west window of Double Arch, shown below.

Cove_of_Caves_Windows_Area_Arches_NP_1573


Cove of Caves Windows Area Arches NP 1573
(706 KB)

Detail of the central section of the Cove of Caves. Cracks in the Entrada Sandstone are widened by wind and water erosion and winter ice expanding, creating the arches.

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Double Arch West Window 1575
(523 KB)

The West Window of Double Arch as seen from the Cove of Caves. Double Arch is a pothole arch, formed by water erosion from above. The South view shows this better.

Biceps_Arch_Arches_NP_1578


Biceps Arch Arches NP 1578
(654 KB)

Just north of North Window (shown below) is Biceps Arch. It is one of the largest arches in the park, but North Window is far more popular and it doesn’t get much attention.

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Double Arch Cove of Caves 1580
(506 KB)

Double Arch (left) and Archaeologist Cave on the South side of the Cove of Caves in the
Windows Area. Cove of Caves is the South and West sides of Elephant Butte, the highest
point in the park. Double Arch and Archaeologist Cave were used in the beginning of the film
“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, although the cave interior as shown does not exist.

Biceps_Arch_North_Window_1582


Biceps Arch North Window 1582
(740 KB)

To the Southeast of Cove of Caves is the group of formations which
gave this section of Arches National Park its name (the Windows Area).
At the far right is North Window, at the left center is Biceps Arch.

Archaeologist_Cave_Buccaneer_Rock_1585


Archaeologist Cave Buccaneer Rock 1585
(574 KB)

Archaeologist Cave (where young Indiana Jones snatched the Cross from the bad guy)
is on the left. On the right is a spectacular portrait formation which I used to call “The Dane”
until I tracked down the name that Frank Beckwith gave it: Buccaneer Rock. Frank Beckwith
was the leader of the Arches National Monument Scientific Expedition in 1933-34. He named
many of the features in the Park, such as Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, etc. He wrote a report
on the expedition, and published several articles, maps, and a geological survey of the area.

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Buccaneer Rock Arches NP 1587
(522 KB)

Detail of Buccaneer Rock. This is an absolutely uncanny portrait
of a bearded fellow with a pointed cap. Mother Nature at her best.

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Double Arch Arches NP 1593
(662 KB)

Double Arch, South View, 10% polarization.

Double Arch is different than many of the other arches in Arches National Park.
Created by chemical weathering from above, it is a Pothole Arch formation. The opening
on the left is the other side of the West Window shown earlier. This view from the South was
taken with 10% polarization... just enough to darken the sky a little and add some saturation.

Double_Arch_Arches_NP_1595


Double Arch Arches NP 1595
(637 KB)

Double Arch, South View, 25% polarization.

Both of the arches share the same foundation stone supporting one of their legs
(the left side of this image). The span of the larger opening is 148 feet (104 feet high).

DoubleArch_PolarizationComparison


Double Arch Polarization Comparison
(908 KB)

A comparison of different polarization settings on the South view of Double Arch.
These are placed in order of the polarization levels, and show how the settings of
 a circular polarizing filter adds contrast to the sky and color saturation to the rock.

All four of these shots are available as separate images:
1597 (no polarization); 1593 (10%); 1595 (25%); 1592 (50%).

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Images in this section are in a number of different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Scenic Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

PhotoshelterGallerySection


Direct Link to images of Arches National Park:

Arches National Park

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Click the Display Composite above to visit the Indian Lands and Anasazi Sites Index page.

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