Arches National Park
Arches National Park preserves over 2,000 natural sandstone
arches, like the world-famous Delicate Arch, as well as many
other unusual rock formations. In some areas, the forces of
nature have exposed millions of years of geologic history. The
extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of
contrasting colors, landforms and textures that is unlike any
other in the world.
Arches National Park is located just outside of Moab, Utah, and
is 119 square miles in size. Its highest elevation is 5,653 feet
at Elephant Butte, and its lowest elevation is 4,085 feet at the
visitor center. Forty-three arches have collapsed due to erosion
since 1970. The park receives 10 inches of rain a year on
average. Administered by the National Park Service, the area was
originally designated as a National Monument on April 12, 1929.
It was redesignated as a National Park on November 12, 1971.
Arches National Park History
Humans have occupied the region since the last ice age 10,000
years ago. Fremont people and Ancient Pueblo People lived in the
area up until about 700 years ago. Spanish missionaries
encountered Ute and Paiute tribes in the area when they first
came through in 1775, but the first European-Americans to
attempt settlement in the area were the Mormon Elk Mountain
Mission in 1855, who soon abandoned the area. Ranchers, farmers,
and prospectors later settled Moab in the neighboring Riverine
Valley in the 1880s. Word of the beauty in the surrounding rock
formations spread beyond the settlement as a possible tourist
The Arches area was first brought to the attention of the
National Park Service by Frank A. Wadleigh, passenger traffic
manager of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. Wadleigh,
accompanied by railroad photographer George L. Beam, visited the
area in September 1923 at the invitation of Alexander Ringhoffer,
a Hungarian-born prospector living in Salt Valley. Ringhoffer
had written to the railroad in an effort to interest them in the
tourist potential of a scenic area he had discovered the
previous year with his two sons and a son-in-law, which he
called the "Devil's Garden" (known today as the "Klondike
Bluffs"). Wadleigh was impressed by what Ringhoffer showed him,
and suggested to Park Service director Stephen T. Mather that
the area be made a national monument.
The following year additional support for the monument idea came
from Laurence Gould, a University of Michigan graduate student
(and future polar explorer) studying the geology of the nearby
La Sal Mountains, who was shown the scenic area by retired local
physician Dr. J.W. "Doc" Williams.
A succession of government investigators examined the area, in
part due to confusion as to the precise location. In the process
the name "Devil's Garden" was transposed to an area on the
opposite side of Salt Valley, and Ringhoffer's original
discovery was omitted, while another area nearby, known locally
as "The Windows", was included. Designation of the area as a
national monument was supported by the Park Service from 1926,
but was resisted by President Calvin Coolidge's Interior
Secretary, Hubert Work. Finally in April 1929, shortly after his
inauguration, President Herbert Hoover signed a presidential
proclamation creating Arches National Monument, consisting of
two comparatively small, disconnected sections. The purpose of
the reservation under the 1906 Antiquities Act was to protect
the arches, spires, balanced rocks, and other sandstone
formations for their scientific and educational value. The name
"Arches" was suggested by Frank Pinkely, superintendent of the
Park Service's southwestern national monuments, following a
visit to the Windows section in 1925.
In late 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a
proclamation which enlarged Arches to protect additional scenic
features and permit development of facilities to promote
tourism. A small adjustment was made by President Dwight
Eisenhower in 1960 to accommodate a new road alignment.
In early 1969, just before leaving office, President Lyndon B.
Johnson signed a proclamation substantially enlarging Arches.
Two years later, President Richard Nixon signed legislation
enacted by Congress which significantly reduced the total area
enclosed, but changed its status to a National Park.