Perched high above the Colorado River, Arches National Park is carved and shaped by weathering and erosion.
The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks.
It contains the highest density of natural arches in the world.
Arches National Park covers an area of 310 square kilometers (120 square miles) or 31,031 hectares (76,679 acres).
Its highest elevation is 1,723 meters (5,653 feet) at Elephant Butte, and its lowest elevation is 1,245 meters (4,085 feet) at the visitor center.
About 300 million years ago an inland sea covered what is now Arches National Park. The sea evaporated and re-formed 29 times in all, leaving behind salt beds thousands of feet thick.
Later, sand and boulders carried down by streams from the uplands eventually buried the salt beds beneath thick layers of stone. Because the salt layer is less dense than the overlying blanket of rock, it rises up through it, forming it into domes and ridges, with valleys in between.
On April 12, 1929, President Herbert Hoover signed presidential proclamation No. 1875 reserving 780 hectares (1,920 acres) in the Windows and (1,050 hectares) 2,600 acres in the Devils Garden for the purpose of establishing Arches National Monument.
Since that time, the park’s boundaries have been expanded several times.
In 1971, Congress changed the status of Arches to National Park, recognizing over 10,000 years of human history that flourished in this now-famous landscape of rock.
Delicate Arch is the most famous arch in the park and in the world. It is 18-meter (60-foot) -tall freestanding natural arch. The arch is depicted on Utah license plates and on a postage stamp commemorating Utah’s centennial anniversary of admission to the Union in 1996. The Olympic torch relay for the 2002 Winter Olympics passed through the arch.
Double Arch is a close-set pair of natural arches, one of the well-known features of the park. The southern span of Double Arch has tallest opening in the park at 34.1 meters (112 feet) above ground level. It is also the second-longest arch in the park, at 44 meters (144 feet) across. The area was used as a backdrop for the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which the arches are briefly visible. However, the cave shown in the movie does not exist.
Landscape Arch is the longest arch in the park and in the Western hemisphere. The Natural Arch and Bridge Society (NABS) now considers the Landscape Arch to be the fifth longest natural arch in the world, having measured the span in 2004 at 88.4 meters (290.1 feet)
The Windows also known as the Spectacles, these two arches stand side by side, though separated by some distance, cut from the same sandstone fin. A large “nose” separates the Spectacle arches visually from the southwest, made of a gigantic fin remnant over (30 meters) 100 feet wide.
Balanced Rock is one of the most iconic features in the park. The total height of Balanced Rock is about 39 meters (128 feet), with the balancing rock rising 16.75 meters (55 feet) above the base. The big rock on top is the size of three school buses.
Devils Garden is an area of Arches National Park, that features a series of rock fins and arches. The Devils Garden Trail, including more primitive sections and spurs, meanders through the area for 11.6 kilometers (7.2 miles).
Climbing on named arches within the park has long been banned by park regulations. Climbing on other features in the park is allowed, but regulated.
Approved recreational activities include auto touring, backpacking, biking, camping, and hiking, some of which require permits.
Hiking is the signature activity of the park, with trails that vary from wheelchair accessible to extremely difficult to rock climbing/canyoneering.
Astronomy is also popular in the park due to its dark skies despite the increasing light pollution from towns like Moab.
The most popular seasons in Arches are April through May and mid-September through October.
Forty-three arches are known to have collapsed since 1977.
Most of the sandstones in the park contain iron oxide. It takes as little as 1-3% iron to color the rocks red.
Many visitors are surprised at the amount of vegetation in Arches. Over 400 kinds of plants grow and flourish in Arches, despite extreme temperatures and low rainfall. Plants play an important role in the Arches National Park ecosystem.
Though the natural quiet of Arches often creates the impression of lifelessness, many animals live here. The most frequently sighted animals include birds, lizards, and some small mammals, though seasons and weather play a large role in determining what animals are active.
Humans have occupied the region since the last ice age 10,000 years ago.
Fremont people and Ancient Pueblo People lived in the area up until about 700 years ago.
As the ancestral Puebloan people were leaving, nomadic Shoshonean peoples such as the Ute and Paiute entered the area and were here to meet the first Europeans in 1776.
The first European-Americans to attempt settlement in the area were the Mormon Elk Mountain Mission in 1855, who soon abandoned the area. Ranchers, farmers, and prospectors later settled Moab in the neighboring Riverine Valley in the 1880s.
The Arches area was first brought to the attention of the National Park Service by Frank A. Wadleigh, passenger traffic manager of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad.