Arches National Park
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One of Over 200 Arches

Geolor ArrowOne of the over 200 arches in Arches National Park.
Notice the truck, bottom left corner, for scale.

Geolor ArrowSeveral arches located near Wolfe's cabin, site of former Wolfe Ranch

Arch near Wolfe Ranch
Wolfe's Cabin

Geolor ArrowWolfe's Cabin, built circa 1888

Geolor ArrowThe famous Balanced Rock. Such geologic columns and cap rocks are common to Arches and the entire southwest. Erosion wears away softer rock layers leaving more resistant rock to assume an assortment of strange and interesting shapes.

Balanced Rock
Delicate Arch

Geolor ArrowDelicate Arch, the most famous and widely photographed arch, appears in the distance.

Geolor ArrowCloser view of Delicate Arch. Desert Varnish, visible on the rockface in the photo, resembles black paint that has dripped down the sides of rocks but it is actually a substance composed of minerals and organisms.

Desert Varnish
Windows in the Distance

Geolor ArrowDriving through Arches National Parks one can see several windows in the distance.

Geolor ArrowTo get an idea of the size of the arches in the park, one needs scale. So here are some people to compare this arch to. I am second from the right, sitting.

Scale View
The Three Gossips

Geolor ArrowThe Three Gossips

Geolor ArrowThis photo, which makes up part of the background of this web page, is one of the many arches located in the Windows section of the park.

The Windows Section
Park Avenue

Geolor ArrowUpon entering the park one of the first sandstone structures you will see will be: Courthouse Tower.

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Thank you for visiting this webpage. I hope you enjoyed the photos
and that you learned something about Utah's Arches National Park.

Links to Sites About Arches Park



Go Utah
The American Southwest: Arches National Park
Thumbnail Guide To Arches National Park
Arches National Park

You can find anything you want to know here about visiting and hiking the park. Not a source for geology or park history.

A good site for persons interested in traveling to the park.

A good site for general information on Arches and many other national parks. Find information on activities, lodging, dining, etc. Good for persons interested in traveling to the park.

This website has everything!At a Glance Activities and Programs, Camping, Flora and Fauna, Geology, History, Lodging and Dining, Photograph,y Preservation, Sights to See, Special Services, Walking and Hiking, Weather, and links for Further Reading.


A Relief Map of Utah
NPS Topo Map in PDF Format



Arches National Park: Natural Sculptures Arches, made a Utah national park in 1971, has the world's largest concentration of natural arches; more than 200 dot the park's desertscape. Just as master sculptors like Michelangelo worked slowly to carve their masterpieces, so wind, rain, snow, ice, and blowing sand have taken millions of years to carve the park's varying shapes. Adding to the intrigue of the forms is the red-to-pink-to-orange colors of the sandstone from which they are made. Some of the arches stand up to 100 feet high and span as much as 291 feet across. The arches change shape daily because the elements never rest from their task of molding the landscape. So, what you see here today will be different in a few years. In fact, some things could be different in a few days if one of the arch's legs breaks and it tumbles down. The arches are here because at one time the area was an ocean that receded and left a mixture of sand, silt, lime, and other materials that became a 500-foot-thick layer of sandstone, called Entrada Sandstone. The combination of materials in the Entrada is such that it erodes in irregular patterns, depending on the softness or hardness of the rock, to form the arches and pillars. The process has taken about 145 million years, and, of course, continues right now.

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Desert Varnish is the thin red to black coating found on exposed rock surfaces in arid regions. Varnish is composed of clay minerals, oxides and hydroxides of manganese and/or iron, as well as other particles such as sand grains and trace elements. The distinctive elements are Manganese (Mn) and Iron (Fe). The color of rock varnish depends on the relative amounts of manganese and iron in it: manganese-rich varnishes are black; manganese-poor, iron-rich varnishes are red to orange; those intermediate in composition are usually a shade of brown. Varnish surfaces tend to be shiny when the varnish is smooth and rich in manganese. Desert varnish consists of clays and other particles cemented to rock surfaces by manganese emplaced and oxidized by bacteria living there. It is produced by the physiological activities of microorganisms which are able to take manganese out of the environment, then oxidize and emplace it onto rock surfaces. These microorganisms live on most rock surfaces and may be able to use both organic and inorganic nutrition sources. These manganese-oxidizing microorganisms thrive in deserts and appear to fill an environmental niche unfit for faster growing organisms which feed only on organic materials. The sources for desert varnish components come from outside the rock, most likely from atmospheric dust and surface runoff. Streaks of black varnish often occur where water cascades over cliffs. No major varnish characteristics are caused by wind. Thousands of years are required to form a complete coat of manganese-rich desert varnish so it is rarely found on easily eroded surfaces. A change to more acidic conditions (such as acid rain) can erode rock varnish. In addition, lichens are involved in the chemical erosion of rock varnish.

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Wolfe Ranch: The Arches area, once frequented by hunting parties from the Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) peoples, has seen little permanent human habitation. One noteworthy exception is John Wesley Wolfe, a disabled Civil War veteran. Wolfe and his son Fred built Wolfe Ranch in 1888. Why they came to this place is unknown, but they did manage to maintain a small cattle operation for more than 20 years. A weathered log cabin, a root cellar, a corral, and a glimpse of the past are all that remain.

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