Rob Jones (The Wilderness Vagabond) reports a cluster of four natural bridges made of Kaibab Limestone only about a half mile from the trailhead at Hermits Rest at the end of the West Rim Road in Grand Canyon.
Called the Four Sisters, the arches were well known to the “hermit” himself, Louis Boucher, who included them on tours when he took tourists into the Canyon in the early 1900s. Originally called the Three Sisters, they became nearly forgotten. Rob learned of them from a Park Ranger who did not know their exact location but steered him in the right general direction and he was able to find them.
Below are two of Rob’s photos, followed by his video that shows all four of the arches.
Directions: Walk one quarter mile down the Hermit Trail, starting measurement at the trailhead sign. Watch for the low canyon off to your left, going down. As the trail gets to an easy access, drop into this low canyon and walk up canyon for 0.4 miles, taking the right canyon at the first branch, and the left canyon at the second branch. The natural bridges span the low drainage at NABSQNO 12S 391078 3990950.
A more direct way back to the trail can be hiked from the first fork you took going up canyon. Just hike north up the side of the canyon and back to the main trail (see map below). Or you can return the way you came. The whole loop is about a mile.
Your webmaster and Blog editor David Brandt-Erichsen got a new job as Natural Arch Consultant when NABS was asked by Red Bull Adventure for assistance in compiling a collection of arch photos. Although it was one-time only and there was no pay, it’s a start!
The NABS Board and a few other members joined in on the fun of making suggestions, and two of our intrepid international arch hunters, Ray Millar and Gunter Welz, actually got paid for some photos.
The Red Bull editors of course made the final selection. The article was published July 28:
Merwin Canyon Arch is on BLM land in Kane County, Utah, east of Zion National Park. Merwin Canyon is a side canyon of Bay Bill Canyon which itself is a side canyon of Parunuweap Canyon, the canyon of the east fork of the Virgin River. While the lower part of Merwin Canyon is just a sandy wash, 0.6 miles upcanyon it becomes a beautiful and easy to explore non-technical slot canyon. The arch is right at the entrance of the slot.
The opening has a width of approximately 40 feet and a height of approximately 25 feet. To take a better photo than mine, bring a tripod and a wide angle lens; take several photos with different exposures and then at home you can create an HDR photo on your computer.
Taking a GPS reading at the arch was not possible for me but it should be close to 12S 346250 4114530.
Directions: Less than a mile south of Mt. Carmel Junction turn west on a dirt road and drive on it about one mile to a fence with a cattle guard. Park there and walk down Parunuweap Canyon on a public road through private land for about 5 miles to the confluence with Bay Bill Canyon. If you have a 4 x 4 you can drive here if you don’t mind crossing the ankle deep river many times. Hike up the sandy wash of Bay Bill Canyon for 1 mile. Then turn left and walk up colorful Merwin Canyon for 0.6 miles to the arch and the slot.
These photos show a dramatic change in the appearance of Ring Arch in Courthouse Wash in Arches National Park. Sometime between April 29 and October 7, 2014, a significant portion of the arch collapsed, leaving the arch very much thinner and looking quite delicate.
As the photos show, the left abutment remains intact, but shortly beyond, a large amount of rock including a portion of the right abutment has fallen. The arc of rock that remains shows no fractures in the photos, but it showed no fractures in the earlier photos either. Standing under the arch, it appears as though much of the lower right front of the span has fallen.
Ring Arch may be seen almost directly west from the park road from a long pullout on the west side of the road (NABSQNO 12S-621729-4278463) about 0.15 miles southwest of the center of the Courthouse Wash Bridge. Binoculars will help, as the arch is about 1.3 miles from the road and the arch location is not obvious.
There is no established trail to Ring Arch. Walking directly to it from the park road view is not recommended since it is difficult to avoid disturbing sensitive desert soils. It’s also unpleasant to deal with the stickers in dense patches of Russian thistle and several tumbleweed-filled drainages. A better route starts on a use trail at the parking area on the northwest side of Courthouse Wash (12-622006- 4278791).
Ring Arch is tucked in a northeastward facing alcove and has morning sun. Courthouse Wash can have standing water, serious mud, and voracious seasonal biting insects. Walks taken after a dry spell and when insect populations are low are recommended. If you are good at finding use trails and return the way you came, your round-trip walk will be about 4.0 miles. This is a wonderfully pristine area, so stay in drainages when possible and do your best to insure there is only one narrow footpath leading to the arch.
Ring Arch is a very old pothole type natural arch, which has formed in the Slick Rock Member of Entrada Sandstone. The Slick Rock Member was deposited in tidal mudflats, beaches, and sand dunes during the Middle Jurassic period between 180 and 140 million years ago.
Sources agree that Harry Reed, a Moab photographer and custodian of what was then Arches National Monument, first reported Ring Arch in 1940. Slim Mabery, a former district ranger at the monument, named the arch in 1961. The name comes from the shape of the arch. According to the World Arch Database, Ring Arch’s span is 45’ with a height of 39’. After the recent rockfall, the arch may be marginally taller.
One person died and another was critically injured just before 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 21 when the bluff above Arch Rock (V21-12, NABSQNO 10S-516381-4204424) collapsed when the two hikers were standing on it. The arch is at the end of the Bear Valley Trail in Point Reyes National Seashore, California. The pair fell about 70 feet and were covered by the falling rocks and debris. The collapse of the bluff came about two days after the National Park Service had posted warning signs about the cliff becoming weak from cracks and partial collapses.
Arch rock is a meander type natural bridge where Clear Creek had cut through the narrow peninsula which had connected Miller Point to the mainland as shown in the photo below, looking back from Miller Point across the top of the arch before the collapse.
The photo below taken after the collapse shows that Miller Point is now an isolated butte no longer accessible by the trail that used to go across the top of the arch.
The photo below shows the large pile of rubble after the collapse.
The post-collapse photo below shows that the arch actually survived the collapse of the bluff above it, a testament to the structural strength that the arch form provides.
The photo below shows more clearly that the arch survived the collapse but changed it shape and now the opening has a greater height. Clear Creek still flows under the arch but disappears under the new rubble pile.
The Park Service considers the formation to still be unstable and dangerous and has closed the trail to Arch Rock.
The three very short videos below by Robert Robinson were taken on April 23. The first video shows the approach on the trail that formerly went across the top of the arch. You can see fissures in the ground indicating the possibility of another collapse. The second video shows views of the collapse from the Coast Trail above the opposite side of the creek. The third video shows the still-existing arch from Coast Creek itself.
A special thanks to Robert Robertson and Jeff Moore for supplying material for this article.