The bridge itself is the largest in the world and towers 290 feet above the stream bed beneath. The bridge is about 30 million years old according to experts. With a span of 275 feet, a football field could almost be placed beneath the towering monolith.
First seen by white men in l909, the Rainbow Bridge National Monument was created to preserve this natural wonder less than a year later on May 30, 1910 when President William Taft signed legislation which created the 160 acre monument.
Until Lake Powel formed in the l960’s Rainbow Bridge was extremely isolated and difficult to get to. President Teddy Roosevelt visited the monument in l913 and the author Zane Grey made several visits to the bridge the same year. Visitors to the bridge numbered only a few hundred a year until Lake Powell brought boat access to within a mile of the Bridge. Today over 90,000 people a year visit this magnificent work of nature.
This writer saw the bridge for the first time in June of l962. Calvin Black, Frank Wright, Steve Jensen, George Walton, George Adams, Sylvia Nielson, and Tad and Nancy Nichols hiked to the bridge while on a river trip from Hite to the Glen Canyon Dam and back. At that time there was no lake at all and it was a 12 mile hike from the main canyon of the Colorado River to the bridge and back. We did not see a single living soul in that all-day hike. We marveled at the beauty and intimacy of that wonderous canyon which was narrow and dark in places. Today it is buried under Lake Powell.
From artifacts discovered in the area, archaeologists believe Indian tribes have known about the bridge for at least 10,000 years. It is one of the most sacred places to the Navajo, San Juan Southern Paiute, Kaibab Paiute, Hopi and White Mesa Ute tribes.
One interesting note is that in the l920’s a lodge was built near the monument that charged the princely sum of $20 per night and catered to the rich and adventurous. It was later sold. One of the new co-owners was Barry Goldwater who later became a senator from Arizona and ran for president of the United States against Lyndon Johnson in l964. The lodge burned in the 1950’s and was never rebuilt.
Happy Birthday Rainbow Bridge National Monument. You are definitely one of the great wonders of San Juan and the entire world.