A triumphant Western Landscape

The landscape of the American Southwest is clearly one of extremes — high mountain peaks and deep river canyons,  rock towers, alcoves and arches.

And not just any natural arches, but the longest arches in the world. The longest of them all is Landscape Arch in Arches National Park, just north of Moab, Utah.

That is now the official word of the Natural Arch and Bridge Society, which has spent 20 years determining exactly how to define and measure the span of a natural arch. They have sent teams of people to some of the most isolated spots on Earth to measure the arches using lasers, Google Earth and other techniques.

The group determined that Landscape Arch was the longest, with a span of 290 feet. Kolob Arch in Zion National Park in southwestern Utah was a close second, at 287 feet.
In fact, six of the 10 longest arches are in Utah. Colorado can claim only one — Outlaw Arch in Dinosaur National Monument. And nine of the top 10 are in the American
Southwest. The Alkoa Arch in the Ennedi Range of Chad, in the Sahara Desert, was the only one of the long arches outside the United States. It was third on the list at 250 feet.

Many people had thought the Tushuk Tash Arch in China would make the list, and it is definitely the highest, topping a chasm more than 1,200 feet deep. But researchers using a variety of measuring methods determined its span was only about 180 feet.

The arch detectives have believed for decades that the two longest arches were Landscape and Kolob. Landscape is easily accessible and had been measured several times. But Kolob requires a long hike in the canyon country of southwestern Utah, and a technical climb to reach the best point for measuring it. So it wasn’t until 2006 that it was determined to be three feet shorter than Landscape. The span of the Chinese arch was just released this spring.

Arch bragging rights are nothing to sneer about. It’s nice to know the king of them all is just a few miles west of here in eastern Utah.


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