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Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park


Wall Arch is no more at Arches National Park after giving in to gravity earlier this week. NPS photos.

One minute it was there, the next it was gone.

The collapse of "Wall Arch" at Arches National Park proves once again that gravity does work, even though you might wonder after gazing at the "rockitecture" of this dazzling Utah park.

Wall Arch, long a key attraction along the park's Devils Garden Trail, collapsed sometime overnight August 4. And since rock has continued to peel off of the collapsed arch, officials have been forced to temporarily close the popular trail just beyond Landscape Arch.

On Thursday representatives from both the National Park Service Geologic Resources Division and the Utah Geological Survey visited the site and noted obvious stress fractures in the remaining formation. Rock debris has completely blocked this section of the trail. The closure will remain in effect until visitor safety issues can be resolved.

First reported and named by Lewis T. McKinney in 1948, Wall Arch was a free-standing arch in the Slickrock member of the Entrada sandstone. The opening beneath the span was 71-feet wide and 33-1/2 feet high. It ranked 12th in size among the over 2,000 known arches in the park.

All arches are but temporary features and all will eventually succumb to the forces of gravity and erosion. While the geologic forces that created the arches are still very much underway, in human terms it’s rare to observe such dramatic changes.

No one has reported observing the arch collapse and there were no visitor injuries.


thank God there are people in charge out there, that know its a natural thing, and not some nut who wants to coat all the arches with super glue so that the park remains the same forever. We are constantly evolving.

Kurt: Are all the arches at Arches National Park open to visitors to walk over? Was the Wall Arch open to visitors before the collapse to hike over? The geology of this special place amazes me with all of its beautiful and unique features carved in eons.

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any arch in the park you can "walk over." Under and past, yes in many cases, but the NPS frowns on you walking over them.

Landscape Arch you can't even stand under due in large part to its fragile nature. You can walk along fins, which are some of the building blocks of arches. In general, if a named arch can be found on a USGS topo map, park regulations prohibit you from climbing onto it.

I'm glad I visited and walked this trail when I had a chance to back in 2001. This is the second great american landmark to become a mere memory that I have had the privilege to see firsthand. The first was Cinder Cone and its associated lava flow in Lassen Park California, which I visited for the first time in 1980. It had such spectacular features as the lava field, which up close looked like water waves frozen in mid crash. You couldn't walk on it or you'd be cut to ribbons. The cinder cone itself featured a perfectly 200' cylindrical hole in the middle that bottomed out in some similarly frozen lava. 20 years later the cinder cone had collapsed in on itself and the hole was a mere 20' feet deep. The lava field was a mere shadow of its former crystaline self with trees growing throughout; it was beginning to blend in with the background landscape. Since it had been there since the mid 1800's, I couldn't believe the amount of erosion that had taken place in the last 20 years, a sure sign of how "global warming" has accelerated the erosive forces for that hitherto slow-changing landscape. I presume that the change in level of rain and snowfall was the primary culprit.

And don't forget the collapse of the Old man of the Mountain in New Hampshire

Another culprit would have been Time - many millions of years of it...

My thoughts exactly...I could see some misguided nuts wanting to put re-bar in all the arches so they don't move. This is nature at its finest.

The forces of wind, water, temperature and time are not to be denied. Erosion giveth, and eventually erosion taketh away. Mother Nature functions both as master sculptor and over time, when she decides she's seen enough and her work has served its purpose, she trades hats and becomes demolition crew. You go Girl!

Just a gentle reminder that, as much as we like to see to the contrary and believe that things as we see them are the way that they are, were and will be, the planet is actually never quite the same at any two moments in time. The careful observer will AWAYS notice minute evolutionary modifications in the environment, from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour, as Nature's job description does not include the term "stagnant".

For what it's worth, you can walk around, through and lean against most of the arches in Arches. Some fools I've seen have tried (a couple actually succeeded) in scrambling up to the zenith of Delicate and Double Arch. Be advised that if you are seen by or reported to the authorities, you are subject to arrest, fines and most unceremoniously escorted from the park. And no, refunds are not included. Revocation of passes is, though.
As it should be.

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