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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Blanding in San Juan County, Utah — The American Mountains (Southwest)
 

Utah's First National Monument

National Bridges National Monument

 
 
Utah's First National Monument Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 16, 2007
1. Utah's First National Monument Marker
Inscription. In 1883, Cass Hite wandered up White Canyon from his mining claim on the Colorado River and “discovered” three stone bridges. He brought them to the attention of area residents and the scientific community. Nowhere else had three such monolithic structures been located in such close proximity. They were described as having “spans far greater than any heretofore known to exist.” On April 16, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the proclamation creating Natural Bridges National Monument-Utah’s first National Park Service area.

At the time of the monument’s establishment, little had been known of the location and character of prehistoric ruins near the bridges. Extraordinary cliff dwelling and mesa-top ruins deserved study and protection within the new monument. In response, the park boundary was expanded.

Today, the three bridges - Sipapu, Kachina and Owachomo - their names taken from the Hopi Indian culture, are among the largest natural stone bridges in the world.

As you travel Bridge View Drive, overlooks and trails provide opportunities to view and explore the geologic and archeologic features that make Natural Bridges National Monument an important part of this nation’s National Park System.
 
Erected by National Park Service.
One of Three Natural Bridges image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 16, 2007
2. One of Three Natural Bridges

 
Location. 37° 36.522′ N, 109° 58.608′ W. Marker is near Blanding, Utah, in San Juan County. Marker is on Natural Bridge Road (Utah Route 275). Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Lake Powell UT 84533, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within 10 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Bears Ears (approx. 1.5 miles away); Sipapu Bridge (approx. 1.6 miles away); Owachomo Bridge (approx. 2.6 miles away); Kachina Bridge (approx. 2.9 miles away); Salvation Knoll (approx. 9.2 miles away).
 
Regarding Utah's First National Monument. Three majestic natural bridges invite you to ponder the power of water in a landscape usually defined by its absence. View them from an overlook, or hit the trails and experience their grandeur from below. Declared a National Monument in 1908, the bridges are named "Kachina," "Owachomo" and "Sipapu" in honor of the Native Americans that once made this area their home.

Human Prehistory
Repeatedly occupied and abandoned during prehistoric times, Natural Bridges was first used during the Archaic period, from 7000 B.C. to A.D. 500. Only the rock art and stone tools left by hunter-gatherer groups reveal that humans lived here then. Around AD 700, ancestors of modern Puebloan people moved
One of Three Natural Bridges image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 16, 2007
3. One of Three Natural Bridges
onto the mesa tops to dry farm and later left as the natural environment changed. Around A.D. 1100, new migrants from across the San Juan River moved into small, single-family houses near the deepest, best-watered soils throughout this area. In the 1200's, farmers from Mesa Verde migrated here, but by the 1300's the ancestral Puebloans migrated south. Navajos and Paiutes lived in the area during later times, and Navajo oral tradition holds that their ancestors lived among the early Puebloans.

European History
In 1883, prospector Cass Hite wandered up White Canyon from his base camp along the Colorado River in search of gold. What he found instead were three magnificent bridges water had sculpted from stone. In 1904, National Geographic Magazine publicized the bridges, and in 1908 President Theodore Roosevelt established Natural Bridges National Monument, creating Utah's first National Park Service area.

Naming the Bridges
Several names have been applied to the bridges. First named "President," "Senator" and "Congressman" by Cass Hite, the bridges were renamed "Augusta," "Caroline" and "Edwin" by later explorer groups. As the park was expanded to protect nearby Puebloan structures, the General Land Office assigned the Hopi names "Sipapu," "Kachina" and "Owachomo" in 1909. Sipapu means "the place of emergence," an entryway by which the Hopi believe their
View of the Area image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 16, 2007
4. View of the Area
Click on photo to enlarge. Ruins of cliff dwellings can be seen.
ancestors came into this world. Kachina is named for rock art on the bridge that resembles symbols commonly used on kachina dolls. Owachomo means "rock mound," a feature atop the bridge's east abutment.

Nature & Science
Stand for a moment at an overlook. Nothing in the scope of your vision moves. Strain your ears for a sound; silence alone greets them. The desert landscape seems eternally unchanging. But stay a moment longer and a small animal sends a pebble clattering down the slickrock. Stay for an hour and the wind picks up, blowing sand and dust against you. Tomorrow a thunderstorm may send a flood twisting down the course of White Canyon. In one month, several tons of rock may thunder down from Kachina Bridge as it did in June of 1992 when 4,000 tons fell from the bridge. If you return next year, Owachomo Bridge may no longer be standing. The momentary stillness of Canyon Country is deceptive; the same processes which formed the seemingly eternal landscape you are enjoying today are still at work, continually changing the face of the earth.
Source: National Park Service
 
Categories. Native AmericansNatural Features
 
View of a Natural Bridge image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 16, 2007
5. View of a Natural Bridge
View of a Natural Bridge image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 16, 2007
6. View of a Natural Bridge
National Park Passport Cancellation Stamp image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 16, 2007
7. National Park Passport Cancellation Stamp
Natural Bridges National Monument was preserved in 1908 as Utah’s first National Park Service area. It contains three of the world’s ten largest natural bridges as well as many outstanding examples of the early Puebloan culture. Solitude and unobscured night skies predominate in this southeast Utah setting.
National Park Passport Cancellation Stamp image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 16, 2007
8. National Park Passport Cancellation Stamp
Natural Bridges National Monument-Owachomo Bridge Natural Bridges protects some of the finest examples of ancient stone architecture in the southwest. Located on a tree-covered mesa cut by deep sandstone canyons, Sipapu Bridge formed where meandering streams eroded the canyon walls.
Sign at Entrance to the National Park image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, September 16, 2007
9. Sign at Entrance to the National Park
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on December 26, 2012, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. This page has been viewed 317 times since then and 36 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. submitted on December 26, 2012, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Md 21234. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
 
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Wide area view of the marker and its surroundings. • Can you help?
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