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gem icon Sipapu Bridge

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Overview

At 225 feet in length, Sipapu Bridge is the second largest natural bridge in the world (only Rainbow Bridge in Glen Canyon is bigger). Sipapu is also the largest bridge in the National Monument, so it is worth a visit for sure. This bridge has had many names in the last 100 years. It's current name, Sipapu, was given to it by William Douglas who was surveying the land in 1908 and thought that the Native American ruins and rock art here were Hopi in origin. In Hopi mythology, a “sipapu” is a gateway through which souls may pass from the spirit world.

As the park's brochures and info boards explain, natural bridges are created differently than arches. Bridges are formed by and span streams of flowing water. Arches are formed by weather-powered erosion or pounding waves.

Sipapu Bridge is considered "middle aged" meaning that it is younger than Owachomo but older than Kachina. It took White Canyon Creek thousands of years to carve out Sipapu Bridge from the surrounding rock, the creek used to flow in a horseshoe pattern around the span that is visible today. The old creekbed is to the right of the bridge (as viewed from the overlook). Scientists are not sure how long ago the creek's course moved and when it started to erode the sandstone to make the hole, but estimates put it during the Pleistocene. Some day the bridge will collapse and erode away. One factoid from the NPS: the opening of Sipapu Bridge is large enough to fit the dome of the U.S. Capitol!

Short Run: A visit to the Sipapu Bridge viewpoint via the Sipapu Overlook Trail is only slightly taxing on the way back up and should be doable for most able-bodied folks (0.4 miles one-way). This is a good option for people short on time, but who want to see this feat of Mother Nature. Heartier souls searching for a work-out will opt for the Sipapu Trail down into the canyon bottom to see the bridge up close. Be prepared for a steep, sunny, hot climb back up to the rim. In winter, this trail can be treacherous.

Family Friendly: Older kids game for a short hike will enjoy visiting the overlook and scrambling down the ladder, but beware of the cliff edges, there are no railings here!

Gem Type: Rock Formation

Shared by:
Megan W

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Shared by Megan W on Oct 5, 2016. All Page Views: 182. Last Month: 21.