Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kachina Bridge Ruins-Natural Bridges

The Kachina Bridge Trail is 0.75 miles with 350 feet elevation change to one of the three large natural bridges in Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah. On the opposite canyon wall past the bridge opening is a hidden ruins site with many examples of rock art.

The Kachina Bridge is 210 feet high with a span of 204 feet. The top of the bridge is 44 feet wide and 93 feet thick. Along the main trail wall there are some faint petroglyphs. Through the bridge on the upstream side there appeared to be two flute player images. The Kachina Bridge is the middle of three bridges and can be visited directly from the rim or as part of a loop hike from one of the other two large bridges.

The short side trail to the ruins site isn’t pointed out and there is a sandy hill to climb. The site is small and the structures are unusual. There are two circular structures and a small conical storage bin. There is a trail box at the beginning of the site that offers some interpretive comments. The two circular structures don’t show any sign of ever having had roofs, so the site is thought to have had some special use.

This area is rich with pictographs and petroglyphs. There are quite a few red handprints. The sandstone slabs that are in front of the site also have petroglyphs carved into them. The somewhat famous petroglyph that resembles a dinosaur is on the main trail side of Kachina Bridge on the down canyon side. The petroglyphs around the dinosaur are very faint. I didn’t notice it until I looked at my pictures later.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Horse Collar Ruins Trail-Natural Bridges

The Horse Collar Ruins Trail refers to the White Canyon section of loop trail from Sipapu Bridge to Kachina Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument in southeast Utah.

The total loop hike between the two large bridges along the canyon and over the mesa top is 5.4 miles. The Horse Collar site is closer to Sipapu Bridge and I started my hike there.

There is a 0.3 mile Horse Collar Ruins Overlook Trail along the Bridge View Loop Road. From above the two units of Horse Collar are visible far below. This ruins site is about 0.8 miles down the canyon from Sipapu Bridge just past the canyon junction with Deer Canyon.

The Horse Collar refers to the shape of the doors in the south unit. The south unit is considered to be unusual in that there is a square kiva and a round kiva at the same site. Round kivas are typical of southwest Colorado and southeast Utah while square is typical of northern Arizona.

This ruins site is easy to miss along the canyon bottom trail. It sits on top of a shelf with some steep cliffs below and is most easily noticeable when traveling from Sipapu from Kachina. The north unit can be spotted from the slightly elevated area above the canyon bottom.

There is a vague side trail that approaches through a thick patch of oak but I didn’t see an easy way to get up onto the ruins shelf. Even though I was immediately below the famous south unit I couldn’t see it.

Directly across the canyon from the Horse Collar Ruins is the large Indian Foot Arch. This arch appears to be below the overlook point but isn’t very visible from up there.

About 1 mile past the Horse Collar Ruins and Indian Foot Arch a small granary ruin is visible. Soon the Kachina Bridge comes into view. Look for petroglyphs on both sides of Kachina Bridge and also look along the canyon wall on the opposite side from the trail back toward the rim.

I saw another small arch high on the east rim further down canyon. There is also a small arch along the trail climbing back to the rim above Kachina Bridge.

The distance between Sipapu and Kachina Bridges is about 2.4 miles. My total time for the 5.4 mile loop including side trips was 4:20 hours on an 80 F day in late August.

An Archaeological Survey of Natural Bridges National Monument Southeastern Utah

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sipapu Bridge Ruins Trail-Natural Bridges

The Sipapu Natural Bridge is one of the three very large bridge formations in Natural Bridges National Monument in the Cedar Mesa area of southeast Utah. The trail from the rim to the bridge is 0.6 miles and descends about 500 feet.

Sipapu Bridge is very massive at 220 feet high, with a 268 foot span. The bridge is 31 feet wide and 53 feet thick. The main park trail system features hiking between Sipapu and Kachina Bridge along the bottom of White Canyon and also on the mesa top for a 5.6 mile loop. There is also a trail that goes up the canyon about 0.7 miles to a small ruins site. There aren’t any signs that point out this trail.

The small structures sit in a south facing curve of the twisty canyon high enough above the creek to avoid flooding. The canyon bottom is lush with willows and cottonwood trees and there are patches of Gambel Oaks. There also grassy areas and the soil seems to be sandy.

It looks like there is a squarish possible kiva and a small room block and some small storage bins. There is also a small granary high and to the right of the main structures with a couple of old timbers lying across the top of the kiva. The canyon walls are very steep here and it’s not clear where any travel to the rim would occur. The canyon rims here are dry so maybe there was no need to go there.

To the left of the structures there is a panel of white pictographs featuring some large figures. It took me about 20 minutes to arrive at this site from the Sipapu Bridge. The total side trip took about 50 minutes on an 80 F degree late August day.