Sudden Birth of a Large Natural Bridge in Ecuador — Possibly the Longest in the World!

A large waterfall natural bridge was suddenly created on February 2, 2020, by the collapse of a sinkhole behind the San Rafael Waterfall, which had previously been the largest waterfall in Ecuador. The new natural bridge is NABSQNO 18M-212655-9988525.

Our analysis of Google Earth and other images seems to indicate that the resulting natural arch is possibly the longest in the world, perhaps exceeding 400-foot Fairy Bridge in China. It will be interesting also to see if this bridge lasts more than a few years.


The Ecuador Ministry of Environment announced that it is carrying out studies to determine what happened. Some question has been raised if the event was totally of natural origin, perhaps aggravated by being in a volcanic and earthquake activity zone, or if it may have been exacerbated by the construction of a nearby hydroelectric dam which removes sediment from the river, making it more erosive. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is set to hold an academic debate to find stronger scientific ground to determine what happened.

BEFORE (image credit, NASA):

San Rafael Waterfall Ecuador

AFTER (image credit, Ecuador Ministry of Environment):

San Rafael Natural Bridge Ecuador

The 3-minute video below shows both before and after images. The new natural bridge is visible in the still image below and at 1:37-1:42 and 2:15-2:36. Beginning around 2:26 you can see a significant amount of water flowing out of the left abutment. This does not bode well for the longevity of the arch.

4 thoughts on “Sudden Birth of a Large Natural Bridge in Ecuador — Possibly the Longest in the World!”

  1. The situation has progressed incredibly fast and the bridge is surviving! Sediment (or weak rock) behind the limestone rib is being carved away rapidly leaving the bridge to stand alone across the new gorge. Seen in the first frames of the video here: Remarkable!

  2. The giant natural bridge at San Rafael has unfortunately collapsed:

    Translated tweet:
    Cayambe National Park staff reported that the arch through which the river passed #Coca it has collapsed, causing the total damming of the river. As a measure, it is proposed to abandon the facilities of the San Rafael checkpoint and relocate the personnel to another location.

    1. Are there any photos or videos of what remains of this one-time natural bridge?

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