Scenic USA - Utah

Sipapu Natural Bridge

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Sipapu Natural Bridge - Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

Photo by Tom Blandford
Tom Blandford Photography

   Less than an hour's drive from Blanding, Utah's Natural Bridges National Monument features three large natural bridges spaced out among four converging canyons. Sipapu Bridge is the largest of the three; in fact it's one of the largest in North America. Not to be counted in with large natural arches, natural bridges are basically formed by flowing water, while arches fall into a separate category.
   A park road loops around the monument property providing overlooks to all three bridges and Horsecollar Ruin. One of the best ways to appreciate these natural wonders is to walk beneath them. While exploring under Landscape Arch and Rainbow Bridge is prohibited, the Sipapu Bridge Trail allows you to experience this rock bridge from underneath. Although it's a relatively short trail down to the bridge, its steep half mile descent is aided by multiple switch backs, ladders and a staircase. First measured in 1908, the 268 foot measurement of the opening has been refined down to 225 feet by more modern techniques.
   No one knows what names Native Americans once had for these bridges, but area modern Paiutes referred to all three as Mah-Vah-Talk-Tump, under the horse's belly. The bridge's Sipapu name was given by surveyor William Douglas in 1908. Sipapu is a Hopi word describing a symbolical portal from which their first ancestors entered from another world.

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