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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.


When I heard of a collapse at Arches, I freaked out! I'm going there soon! I'm sooooo glad it's not the delicate arch. Whew

I just was at Arches last week with my wife. It's a great place. We hiked to Landscape arch, but were out of time, so we didn't make it to Wall Arch.
Make sure you take the ranger guided Fiery Furnace tour if you go. You get to see perhaps the coolest part of the park with narrow fins in a maze-like formation. It was our favorite part of our stop there

Saw the Wall Arch and hiked the trail last year which was a little tricky; but worthwhile. It is very fortunate that no one was injured when the Wall Arch collapsed. Glad we got great photos of it.

Last year was my first time seeing quite a few National Parks (Wow!) now that I'm a retired senior. As far as walking across an arch, in our travels we did see a European tourist walk across one of the arches in Canyonlands merrily taking pictures like it was Disneyland. I couldn't look. I thought he was a gonner. This is the arch that goes across the steep wall at the top of Canyonlands. He was nuts! I got dizzy just looking over the pile of rocks at the base of the arch to see the canyon. He obviously never heard that you can easily have vertigo set in when you are at heights. Plus you should respect our National Parks and climb only in designated areas.


After visiting the red rocks of Arizona and Utah for five summers, I hate to see this happen! Red rocks are unbelieveable. Just a note, I just retuned from Alaska.....the same thing is happening to the glaciers...makes you wonder about Global Warming!

This is the second geologic incident since my recent visit to the SW of Colorado, Utah and Arizona, first was the massive rock slide in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison a short 8 weeks or so ago and now this...! It proves the world is a dynamic place and changes, even ones that normally occur on geologic time scales of millions of years, can and do occur, in an instant. I am privledged to have experienced these wonders prior to their falls and hope many will appreciate the fragility of most of our natural wonders, get out there and experience nature's grandeur knowing nothing is forever.

It was interesting how the collapse of Wall Arch was first reported by the Associated Press. The headline on the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel's Web site read that an "iconic" arch fell at Arches NP. Then, as a Google search of "Landscape Arch" will reveal, the story reported that Wall Arch was the first arch in the park to fall since Landscape Arch fell in 1991. If Landscape Arch had fallen, then the headline would have been justified in proclaiming that something "iconic" had indeed succumbed to the elements. However, Landscape Arch remains intact, albeit precariously, despite that a chunk of sandstone fell from the arch at about that time. Wall arch was quite a spectacle of nature, but it was hardly "iconic." That honor can go to both Delicate and Landscape arches, certainly the most exemplary specimens of their kind found anywhere in Arches National Park or the Colorado Plateau, for that matter.

For the record, the tops of some arches in the park are accessible, but I think it goes without saying that standing on natural arches is not only dangerous and inadvisable, but also potentially damaging to the arches themselves and offensive to visitors who prefer to see sandstone arches in their natural state. Fortunately, after more than 50 visits to Arches National Park in the last decade, I've never once seen anybody stand atop an arch.

This is not at all a sure sign of anything other than the normal erosion that is well known at Arches National Park. If you paid attention during your 2001 trip you would have learned that lots of features of the park have bit the dust literally over the years. There are plenty of before and after photos to show that. In fact, everyone should do their friends a favor and tell them to visit Arches soon, considering the condition of the landscape and delicate arches! I would not be surprised to hear of either of those collapsing in my lifetime.

There is one park in the system where you are allowed, and are encouraged to, walk atop some sandstone arches - Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, on the Tennessee/Kentucky line. It is 7/10ths of a mile to Twin Arches in the western side of the park via the aptly named Twin Arches Loop Trail. These magnificent structures stand approx. 100 feet long and 70 feet tall. The trail passes beneath as well as on the arches, and continues on past Charit Creek Lodge, historic homesteads, massive blufflines, and other features for one of the South's best easy dayhikes. Big South Fork NRRA is home to one of the largest collections (if not the largest) of rock arches outside of Arches NP. Learn more at and

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