Bledsoe 2012 Western Tour travel blog

Antelope Island

Antelope crossing

Butte and Mesa

Camel Rock


Bath tub ring

Rock views from lake

Forbidding Canyon

Rainbow Bridge boat dock

First glimpsed

Leaving Forbidding Canyon

Rainbow Bridge


Another day, another cloudless sky, with temperatures expected in the 90's. But at 10% humidity that's comfortable. So it's a glorious day to tour Lake Powell and visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument. Rainbow Bridge was declared a national monument by President William Taft in 1910 based solely on a photo and description by explorer John Wetherill so it could be protected for the American people. Good news for all except the Paiute and Navajo peoples who worshiped this as sacred land. And 50 years later we flood these deep canyons and allow thousands of boaters each year to plunder and disrespect this monument. So an agreement was eventually reached in 1993 between the tribal leaders and the National Park Service that allowed visitors here but they could not climb the arch nor pass thru it. Seems its bad mojo to the Navajo for anyone to walk through Rainbow Bridge. At any rate, here we are today, about to board our tour boat and walk TO, not UNDER, Rainbow Bridge.

We decided to ride on the top deck of the boat so there would be no restrictions to the magnificent views in spite of the blazing sun. We slathered on the sunscreen and made ourselves comfortable for the trip. Rainbow Bridge is in a narrow canyon about 40 miles by boat from Wahweap marina and will take us about two hours to get there.

To leave Wahweap Bay you have to pass Antelope Island, which is trying its best to be Antelope Peninsula.

As the water levels in Lake Powell continue to fall due to demand and the lingering decade long drought the channel between the point and the island is becoming narrower. So much so that two large houseboats can barely pass.

After leaving the narrow passage the lake opened up to what I judge to be about five miles wide. We passed many miles of mesas, buttes and red sandstone rocks. The difference between a mesa and a butte? Mesa, in Spanish, means table. Buttes, on the other hand, are like bar stools around the mesa.

We passed Camel Rock, with the typical white bath tub ring. Can you see the camel?

Did I mention houseboats? Like hundreds of them. The most popular way to see Lake Powell is by houseboat and I'm not talking pontoons. The smallest of these vessels rented at the marina is 43 foot long. And at a minimum of $500 per day plus fuel they aren't cheap. But if you want to get away from it all and sneak into one of the hundreds of little finger canyons then this is your cup of tea.

More sandstone, more white rings. The white residue is calcium carbonate left by the water as the levels receded. The highest level this lake ever had was in 1983, 77 feet above our heads.

More views of landscape as we continue our voyage to Rainbow Bridge.

Finally we arrive at the entrance to Forbidding Canyon where at its end we'll find Rainbow Bridge.

The canyon gets a little more narrow as we progress, then we tie up at the dock. It's about a half mile hike from here to the natural bridge.

We spy Rainbow Bridge just a little ways from the boat dock.

And there it is, as large as we expected and just as beautiful.

It was worth the trip. Rainbow Bridge is the largest natural bridge in the world, nearly 300 ft tall and spans 275 feet from base to base. Quite impressive to say the least. The closest we're allowed to get is a viewpoint 200 ft from the base. Remember, it's sacred land. There is a National Park ranger there explaining the history and significance of this bridge, really informative.

After an hour stay it was back on the boat and return to Wahweap. Why is it return trips seem so boring? Altogether it was a memorable trip to say the least.

Tuesday is beach day, just across the road from our campsite. Relax, soak up the sun, and get ready for the drive to Zion.

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