Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Rainbow Bridge in Bridge Canyon
Rainbow Bridge

How To See Rainbow Bridge

Do you have another exciting day to spend in the Page/Lake Powell area? Why not choose to visit Rainbow Bridge? This National Monument is located up-lake from Page on the Utah side of the lake but is easily seen from the air on the Rainbow Bridge Air Tour. This is only one of  a limited number of ways to view Rainbow Bridge. Alternately you can take one of two long hikes in from Navajo Mountain but you must first obtain a permit from the Navajo Tribe (Navajos consider Navajo Mountain a sacred area, and ascending it is forbidden); you can rent a boat (or bring your own), go up-lake to the dock and then take a short hike to the Rainbow Bridge Viewing Area;  or you can take a tour from the Lake Powell Concessioners. When water levels are high enough you can take the tour as a half-day experience; otherwise you must dedicate a whole day for a boat tour to Rainbow Bridge.

Rainbow Bridge is:

  • Sacred to many Native American Tribes
  • the world’s tallest natural bridge with a span of 278 ft and a height of 309 ft
  • open all year
  • fee-free (however, you must pay a fee to enter Glen Canyon National Recreation Area if you choose to view it from the water and you must pay for a permit if you hike in)

If you are looking to spend a night near Rainbow Bridge I have some slightly disappointing news for you. The old Rainbow Bridge Lodge (near Navajo Mountain) is in ruins. However, there are several lodging options in Page, Arizona  near the airport and boating facilities.

Short History of Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge, as you can imagine, has a long and interesting history. If you are interested in the long version you will be able to find it here. The short version is:  For centuries (possibly even millennia) the Native Americans have had a presence in the Rainbow Bridge area.  But, as in all good stories, it was “discovered” by a group of American explorers. Interestingly enough one of the explorers was Byron Cummings, a University of Utah archaeologist and another was William Boone Douglas, a U. S. government surveyor.

Seems the two did not get along very well and both started out with separate groups but eventually joined together. The group leader, John Wetherill, knew of this animosity between the two so when it came time to be the “first” under the bridge he slipped ahead of the others and claimed the honor so they couldn’t fight about it.

Geology of Rainbow Bridge

The geology of Rainbow Bridge is very interesting as well. Here is the long version but if you want the short version it goes something like this:  Many, many moons ago the stream known as Bridge Creek did not flow in a straight line. It just meandered through Bridge Canyon taking the lazy way around anything that presented an obstacle. This lazy meandering caused a fin to form. Eventually the water’s current began to back-cut the softer layers of the fin until a hole wore through it. Then the forces of nature (wind and water) united to enlarge the hole and form the bridge. As geologic time marches on, those forces will likely eventually destroy the bridge as they carve the layers until they can no longer support the structure.

We are fortunate to live in the time that we can view this formation. Take advantage of the opportunity to see Rainbow Bridge the next time you are in the area. If you have the time and energy you should see it from the air, land, and water!

Rainbow Bridge on the Air Tour
Another view of Rainbow Bridge from the air tour

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