Thursday, October 4, 2012

Utah's Bicentennial Highway and Natural Bridges Nat'l Monument


The path, not the destination, is the subject of this post. Utah 95, known as the Bicentennial Highwaywas established in 1976 as part of the Trail of the Ancients, and merits its own chapter.  It also happened to be our route to Hanksville, 121 miles west of Blanding, and gateway to Capitol Reef Country.



At mile 29 State Route 275 spurs off to the northwest and Natural Bridges National Monument.  The 9 mile one-way Bridge View Drive loop took us to overlooks and trailheads for all three natural bridges; Sipapu, Kachina, and Owachomo.  Since we arrived early the road and pullouts had little traffic and the park ranger said it wasn't necessary for us to unhook the jeep.  I love the view from our huge picture window.


Sipapu Bridge
Hikers below the rim

Kachina Bridge

Owachomo Bridge is hard to see
In 1883 Cass Hite wandered up White Canyon from his base camp along the Colorado River.  In search of gold, he found instead three magnificent bridges which water had sculpted from stone.  Bridges and arches look very similar but differ in that bridges are formed by the erosive action of moving water and arches are formed by other erosional forces, mainly frost and seeping moisture.

Kachina Bridge Panorama
An hour or so later, we were back on track, slowly making our way up and along this narrow, winding back-country road, past Fry Canyon, whose uranium motivated the construction of the perilous Moki Dugway to reach Mexican Hat (previous post).  Approaching the Colorado River and the northeast end of Lake Powell we spotted the Hite Crossing Bridge. To put things in perspective here are a couple of photos; one from bridge level, the other high above a shallow Lake Powell.  Note the campground far below!


Hite Crossing Bridge over Colorado River

From high above the Colorado River...Can you see the Hite Bridge?

Our precarious perch above a shallow Lake Powell & campground

I’m always a little apprehensive when we’re traveling these backroads in a high profile vehicle, worrying about the steep grades, a couple of short 10% and a few longer at 8%, but mostly confident that our old gal with her powerful engine and air brakes, and the older, very capable driver can keep us safe and sound, ensuring less passenger braking and camera shake.  They did a magnificent job!
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