Rainbow Bridge National Monument
Picture of Rainbow Bridge © Jason Hickey
The Rainbow Bridge at Lake Powell near Page, Arizona is the planet's tallest natural bridge. This rainbow-shaped arch is 290 feet tall, spans 275 feet and is 42 feet thick at the top. For centuries the natural bridge has been regarded as sacred by the Navajo Indians who consider personified rainbows as the guardians of the universe. Nestled among the canyon walls, the Bridge is accessible via about a 2-hour boat ride from Lake Powell Marina or about a 14-mile trek by foot or horseback across Navajo Reservation Land.
Formation of the Bridge
It took millions upon millions of years for nature to carve this masterpiece that is composed of hardened sandstone. Over a very long duration of time, layers upon layers of sand dunes were deposited on top of each other and buried to depths of over 5,000 feet. During the late Triassic and through the Jurassic period, the sandstone was subjected to extreme climatic changes that caused portions to compress and harden into rock formations. About 60 million years ago the landscape was lifted and tilted far above sea level. Streams and washes making their way to the Colorado River cut into the softer portions of the formations carving what we know today as the Rainbow Bridge. The process also contributed to the formation of alcoves and other natural bridges throughout the Colorado Plateau.
While the natural bridge was long familiar to ancient Native American civilizations, it was probably not seen by anyone else other than Native American descendants until various trappers and cowboys happened by during the nineteenth century. It was not documented officially until 1909 when two exploration groups set out to document the existence of such a structure. The site was given national monument status in 1910 at President Taft's proclamation. Today, the Rainbow Bridge National Monument is visited by thousands of tourists every year. The Navajo Indians have long revered the Bridge as a sacred site and tourists are requested to respect its religious significance and to care for it in a respectful manner.
Getting To The Bridge
First, get to Page, Arizona which is about 130 miles north of Flagstaff off of US 89. By water, the Rainbow Bridge is about 50 miles from Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell using private or rental boats. Group Tours are also available. Signage will direct you to the mouth of Forbidding Canyon (buoy 49) where a floating sign indicates the entrance to Forbidding Canyon. Proceed into the canyon about 2 miles (4km) where a sign directs you through a narrow passage to the landing in Bridge Canyon. The courtesy dock permits short-term parking. The Rainbow Bridge is about a 2 mile hike from the dock.
By hike or horseback, you can backpack to the Bridge via a scenic 14-mile trail from the Navajo Trading Post. A permit form the Navajo Nation is required since you will be crossing Navajo Nation Land. Contact the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department. Camping is permitted. Please respect the natural landscape by taking all trash with you when leaving and thoroughly extinguish campfires. The best hiking months are April, May, early June, September and October.
Map To Rainbow Bridge
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