National Geographic : 1957 Apr
Three Roads to Rainbow 547 Few Visit This Hard-to-Reach National Monument in Southern Utah, but Those Who Do Never Forget Its Soaring Arch of Stone BY RALPH GRAY National Geographic Magazine Staff With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author THERE still are empty spaces in the United States. Along the Utah-Arizona border a desolation of stone and sand rolls on and on-a nightmare jumble almost unmarked by signs of man. In the midst of this red-and-yellow wilder ness of slickrock, at the heart of a vast road less area, rises Rainbow Bridge, one of the natural wonders of the world. World travel ers number it high among the sublime sights of creation (opposite and page 556). Yet so remote and inaccessible has Rain bow Bridge remained since its recorded dis covery by white men that in almost half a century fewer people have seen it than view Grand Canyon in two average summer days. Talking with Neil M. Judd, leader of many National Geographic Society expeditions in the Southwest and a youthful member of the party that discovered Rainbow Bridge in 1909, I became inspired to see for myself this hidden gem of Uncle Sam's jewel case. Page 546 +Rainbow Bridge Spans the Dusty Creek That Carved It out of Desert So lost is this stone arch in the immensity of Utah's red rock and yellow sand that white men did not discover it until August 14, 1909. Within months the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE published the first definitive account and pictures: "The Great Stone Arches of Utah," February, 1910, by Byron Cum mings, one of the discoverers. Additional articles followed in October, 1911, and February, 1923. The September, 1925, Magazine presented Rainbow's first picture in color. With popular interest aroused, President William Howard Taft on May 30, 1910, preserved Rainbow Bridge for all time by proclaiming it a national monu ment. Almost as long as a football field, the bridge is wide enough for a two-lane highway. Among the world's natural bridges and arches, it stands first in size. Few can match the perfection of its lines. Ages ago, while digging its channel, Bridge Creek cut into necks of sandstone. The stream wore away other formations, but this one it penetrated, leaving a great rib of rock suspended in air. The author's party reached this remote formation in three ways: here by air; by river, and by horseback. © National Geographic Society Kodachrome by Edwards Park, National Geographic Staff Though no highway reaches within miles of it, I found, surprisingly, that there are three "roads" to Rainbow. With Edwards (Ted) Park of the National Geographic Staff, I tried them all. We traveled first by boat up the Colorado River, then overland on horseback, and finally by plane. In each case half the joy of seeing Rainbow was getting there. We wanted to take the river road first. Maps told us the deeply entrenched Colorado surges within six miles of the bridge. But would the river be high enough for naviga tion? Where could we find a boat? Cowboy Turns River Guide "Look up Art Greene at Marble Canyon," a friend in Gallup, New Mexico, told us. "He has a place perched on the rim and keeps a boat at Lees Ferry." Marble Canyon lay 300 miles away, but our friend gave directions as though it were a ditch at the edge of town. He knew Art Greene as well as if he lived in the next block. "Art will take good care of you," he said. "No one knows the river better. And when you're on the Colorado, having an expert along might save your insurance company a lot of money." "Funny thing about Art," another said in the best tradition of Western exaggeration and humorous insult. "He was a poor but hon est cowboy for years before he turned to river piracy. Now he owns that big setup he calls Cliff Dwellers Lodge, hobnobs with the gov ernor, and doesn't blink an eye when people call him the Baron of Northern Arizona." By the time our drive to Cliff Dwellers Lodge ended we felt we knew Art well, but no words could have prepared us completely for a meeting with this rimrock patriarch. Though it was long after dark, Art glared at us with a high-noon squint that countless desert days had creased into his face. His battered Stetson, faded shirt, and tight jeans seemed as much a part of him as his craggy countenance, a near match to the Vermilion Cliffs rising 3,000 feet behind his place.