One of the most well known national parks in the United States
Arches National Park in Utah is known for its stunning natural sandstone arches, as well as a variety of other geological features. The park was originally established in 1929 and since then, it has become one of the most popular attractions in the state. It’s estimated that more than 1 million visitors come to the park each year to marvel at its magnificent rock formations and to take in its breathtaking views.
Arches National Park spans over 73,000 acres, equivalent to approximately 114 square miles. Within the park, there are over 500 arches, and there is potential for the discovery of even more. The abundance of arches is a direct consequence of the park's angular topography, extensive exposed rock, and significant erosion. Considering the aridity of the region, with only 8.5 inches of annual precipitation, it is not unexpected that wind and frost play a pivotal role in erosion.
The ancient history of Arches National Park dates back 3,000 to 8,000 years ago, when archaic groups inhabited the area. Archaeological discoveries, such as an 11,000-year-old Folsom projectile point, have provided insights into the early inhabitants. The Anasazi and Fremont peoples were among the first to leave a notable presence in the region, existing in the Colorado Plateau from approximately AD 200 to AD 1300. While the park is situated outside the Fremont cultural area, evidence of the Anasazi civilization is prevalent, with remarkable examples of rock art concealed in hidden canyons, as well as dwelling sites and associated artifacts.
In later years, the Ute and Navajo Native American groups occupied the Arches area. The Utes utilized the park for hunting and living, even displacing the initial white settlers up until the 1850s. On the other hand, the Navajos, although passing through the region, did not establish a permanent presence within the park.
The Old Spanish Trail once traversed the Spanish Valley, now Moab's location. Although few Spaniards likely explored the park, Spanish trader Juan Maria de Rivera passed nearby in 1765. The trail became a popular route from New Mexico to California by the 1840s. While mountain men were known to travel in the area, the only documented entry into the present-day park boundaries was made by Denis Julien in 1844.
The first Mormon explorers arrived in the Moab area in 1854 but were driven out by the Utes shortly after establishing the Elk Mountain mission the following year. It wasn't until the early 1880s that the Mormons returned to help establish the town of Moab. However, it was not until 1898 that the first white inhabitant, Civil War veteran John Wesley Wolfe, settled on Salt Creek. Wolfe and his family lived near Delicate Arch until 1910.
Local residents of Moab quickly recognized the area's natural wonders, and by the turn of the century, visits to the arches, canyons, and fins were common. In 1922, prospector Alexander Ringhoffer, who was deeply moved by the area's unique beauty, contacted the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad officials, located just north of the park, to explore the possibility of developing the region as a tourist attraction.
Establishing the Park
In 1929, President Herbert Hoover established Arches National Monument after being informed of its potential for inclusion in the National Park System. The Arches National Monument Scientific Expedition thoroughly explored the monument between 1933 and 1934. Led by Frank Beckwith, a local newspaper editor and amateur scientist, the team studied the area's geology, wildlife, plant communities, archeology, and paleontology. This expedition played a crucial role in the monument's popularity, with Beckwith even naming iconic features like Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and Tower Arch.
In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt expanded Arches to almost 34,000 acres, significantly larger than its original size of 4,500 acres. The area started gaining more tourist attention, but it wasn't until 1958 that the first paved road was built. Several changes were made in the 1960s, including additions and removals of different sections. Finally, in 1971, President Richard Nixon signed a law designating Arches as a national park, with its current size of 73,233 acres.
Discover Arches National Park's fascinating history and natural beauty, a cherished destination that has captivated visitors for decades.
Arches National Park Today
Today, visitors can explore the park’s many attractions including its iconic landscapes, historic cabins and sites, petroglyph panels, and various fascinating hikes. Over 2,000 natural sandstone arches and balanced rocks, soaring fins, and other stunning landscapes are visible in the park.
In addition to its spectacular geology, Arches National Park is also a great place to learn about the region’s human history, with evidence of prehistoric cultures and pioneer settlements. The park provides many programs and events throughout the year, allowing visitors to explore its rich cultural heritage further.