National Geographic : 1957 Apr
561 Edwards Park, National Geographic Staff Author Gray Signs. His Name Is the 10,741st Entered in the Registry Since 1909 Though quickest and cheapest, the aerial road to Rainbow lacks the intimacy of the other two methods: you see the bridge, but don't actually visit it, since there is no place to land. However, the sight is so magnificent that I'm sure this method of reaching Rain bow will become more popular. Our flight took us past Ute Peak, then straight west in a line a few miles north of the Arizona-Utah border. Even from the air Navajo Mountain looms as the largest landmark of this two-State area. Vic headed directly for it, passed it on the south, and swung sharp to the right around its west shoulder. Almost immediately he pointed down with urgent gestures. There, already in view below, was Rainbow Bridge. I remembered the long hot day we had spent riding horseback from this same mountain to the bridge-such a short distance when seen from above. Dwarfed by our height, Rainbow looked like half a butterscotch Life Saver lodged in a crevice (page 546). Vic stayed at least 500 feet above the plateau, an altitude which put us about 1,500 feet from the canyon-buried bridge itself. From this ultimate vantage point I got a glimmering of how this and other natural bridges are formed. Bridge Creek first laid down a stream course that meandered back and forth. Later uplift of the region caused the stream to furrow a canyon in the soft Navajo sandstone. This canyon followed the previous meander ing watercourse and created necks of solid rock where the stream bent back upon itself. Silt-laden water scoured this neck from both sides, finally piercing it. The stream flowed through the short cut, widening it. Seasonal erosion further shaped the bridge, and centuries of wind gave it a final polishing. There is a school that explains works of art in terms of algebra and trigonometry. Ted Park and I felt, as we flew away from the world's largest and most beautifully shaped natural bridge, that geology and erosion fall as far short in explaining Rainbow's creation. We twisted in our seats to keep the arch in view as long as possible, not knowing when if ever-we would again see this transcendent wonder of the American Southwest.