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Arches National Park

Moab, Grand Co., Utah (June 1992)

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Balancing Rock

The Famous "Balancing Rock"

Arches National Park

We drove up to Moab, Utah, setting our sights on Arches National Park. I'd never spent any time in this part of the country before and my eyes opened wide as we drove along Interstate 70 through some of the least-populated territory I'd ever imagined. People were so sparse here that the few hardscrabble ranchers who eked a living from this empty quarter had their own personal exit ramps from the highway. Moab was the biggest thing out here, a small town by practically any definition but a big city for this corner of the world and a welcome sight after seeing few signs of civilization for the last several hours.

We weren't here to tour Moab however, even though we greatly appreciated its presence. It was a staging point for Arches National Park, home to over 2,000 of these unusual formations. The spectacular shapes formed over millennia as water, wind and grit eroded sandstone into oddly twisted shapes. The feature in this photograph is called Balancing Rock and is easily accessible from the main road just a few miles inside the park. This more than anything reminded me of something out of a Warner Brother's Wile E. Coyote & Roadrunner cartoon. I could just imagine that balancing rock waiting for the right moment to torment the coyote.

This formation is quite large, reaching a height of about 128 feet. The balancing rock itself is 55 feet tall. It looks as if it's perched rather precariously but its massive weight holds it firmly in place.


Scenery at Arches National Park

Panorama Along the Horizon from Double Arch

Double Arch is another famous sandstone monolith and can be approached after a short walk from a parking area. It was formed as a "pothole" rather than from side erosion as formed most of the other notable arches in the park. Oddly enough, even though I walked right up to the Double Arch I did not photograph it. Rather, I turned in the other direction and captured the scenery that could be viewed from the arch. I really have no idea what was going through my mind in 1992 that persuaded me to point the camera in the opposite direction. Certainly today, with years of greater maturity and a digital camera I would have made a different decision -- pointing the camera in every direction plus probably taking a panoramic video. I made the same strange decision on another arch, the so-called Delicate Arch which is so famous and world-renowned that the State of Utah features it on its automobile license plate. I suppose all I can imagine was that I must have had more interest in general background scenery that day than the arches themselves.


Landscape Arch

World's Longest Arch - From Below

I do remember being greatly impressed with Landscape Arch, probably because it's the longest natural rock arch on the planet. It stretches some 290 feet -- nearly the length of a football field -- across an open chasm. It's not known how much longer it may hold this title. It appeared rather thin in places and chunks have been falling from it in recent decades. That's the nature of erosion and the terrain constantly changes. Some other larger arch will make itself known over the passage of geologic time after this one is gone.