Monday, May 18, 2009

Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Even though I grew up in the West, in Washington, I never thought of Washington as Western, as in the Western of the days of the Wild West, where Cowboys roamed and Indians tried to stop the roaming, places associated with names like Navajo and Apache, states like Arizona and New Mexico and Utah, that had places like the Grand Canyon and the Mojave Desert.

I knew of Rainbow Bridge at an early age. It was to be decades later I saw it with my own eyes. When I first learned of Rainbow Bridge, the only way to get to it was to take a boat on the Colorado River and then take a 7 mile hike up the Rainbow Bridge Canyon. Or take a long hike in from the Navajo Mountain side, after getting a permit from the Navajos in Window Rock, Arizona.

Rainbow Bridge was not known to the non-Indian world til 1909 when 2 search parties searched for and found the rumored rock bridge. A year later, on May 30, 1910, President William Howard Taft made it Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Soon after that, Taft's predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt made the journey, by horse and foot, to see the new National Monument.

With the Glen Canyon damming of the Colorado River making Lake Powell, it made it much easier to get to Rainbow Bridge. So, a few years ago I was able to do what Teddy Roosevelt had done many years before and see Rainbow Bridge.

Lake Powell flooded the canyon you used to have to hike to get to Rainbow Bridge. You have to keep an eye out for marking buoys as you boat the main channel. For Rainbow Bridge you are looking for a buoy with the words "Rainbow Bridge" on it. When you find that buoy you float your boat up the canyon where a long dock waits. There are restroom facilities, very poorly maintained when I was there. I thought if they can't be kept in good condition it'd be better to lose the restrooms.

It's a short hike from the restrooms to Rainbow Bridge. We hiked to see it from both sides. Pictures do not do justice to how big it is. It spans 275 feet, is 42 feet thick at the top, 33 feet wide. The highest part of Rainbow Bridge is 290 feet above the ground. There are longer arches, but none taller. Landscape Arch in Arches National Park is slightly longer, but it looks puny compared to Rainbow Arch.

That's Captain Big Ed walking the dock after securing the houseboat. Click here to read another blogging about my Lake Powell Houseboat Road Trip.

The boat ride in and out of the canyon is a lot of fun. Be sure you have a good boat captain, like we did, as the navigating can get a bit dicey, like when you meet another boat going the opposite direction. In our case a big tour boat, way bigger than our puny houseboat, was motoring along at a good speed. I think I remember the speed limit in the canyon was 5 mph. When we carefully passed the tour boat its wake rocked us like a bad carnival ride. And then a huge wave, like a tsunami, quickly overtook our boat, crashing a big wave on board that got the entire cabin very wet.

That tsunami wave in Rainbow Bridge Canyon is one of my favorite memories of Lake Powell.

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