I had been wanting to visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument for a long time. It is the largest known natural bridge in the world, and from the photos I had seen of it in my national park guidebooks and on my phone app* it looked like a truly spectacular sight to behold — I had to see it!
So finally on our third visit to Page, Arizona, we booked the scenic boat tour that leaves from the Wahweap Marina on the western edge of Lake Powell and runs some 50 miles through the lake in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (NRA) which, incidentally, happens to be another national park unit and thus destination for our Jolly Out There adventures — we got a two-fer with this trip! For a couple of hours we cruised up the lake, finally turning into one of many bays… then we headed into an even narrower cut… then finally we were back in a cove where a series of floating docks is set up to facilitate visiting Rainbow Bridge.
Visiting by boat is definitely the easier way to get to Rainbow Bridge; visiting it by land requires a hiking permit and either a 14- or a 17-mile hike through the Navajo Nation lands. Once we docked at the boat ramp, it was a short 1.25-mile hike following the riverbed through sandy terrain back to the… oh, there it is! What a majestic sight to behold!
Rainbow Bridge stands 290′ from the base to the top, and it spans some 275′ across. To put this into perspective, it is nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty, and the U.S. Capitol Building Dome can nearly be tucked under it.
The rock from which the bridge is carved is some 200 million years old. What started as a soft Navajo sandstone rock fin was no match for the forces of water flowing around it. Water eventually punched right through the rock forming the bridge. The harder Kayenta layer stayed firm and provides the base support that has allowed Rainbow Bridge to stand strong over the millennia.
We sat in on a brief ranger talk, no doubt timed with the arrival of us tourists from the tour boat. In it we learned the geological story of the creation of the bridge, and also the story the Native Americans attach to this sacred place.
So at last… I finally made it to Rainbow Bridge. It absolutely did not disappoint!
* Check out Chimani National Parks — it’s a great app that has information about every national park unit. It also links to the various NPS websites and allows you to track your visits to all of the national park units and earn badges when you do so!