• Double O Arch

    Arches

    National Park Utah

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  • Delicate Arch Viewpoint Inaccessible

    Wolfe Ranch and the hiking trail to Delicate Arch are open, but flood waters and mud have blocked the road to Delicate Arch Viewpoint.

  • Safety in Bear Country

    Black bears have been seen near Devils Garden Campground. Don't lure or feed them. Dispose of trash in designated receptacles; don't leave it in bags or other soft containers. Store food in vehicles or hard containers when not being prepared or consumed. More »

Tafoni

Kayenta formation tafoni
Tafoni in sandstone
NPS photo by Neal Herbert
 

A bouquet of tiny arches? A miniature cave system?

Known as honeycomb weathering or "swiss-cheese rock," tafoni (singular: tafone) are small, rounded, smooth-edged openings in a rock surface, most often found in arid or semi-arid deserts. They can occur in clusters looking much like a sponge and are nearly always on a vertical or inclined face protected from surface runoff.

At Arches, tafoni are most often found in the Entrada and Navajo sandstones, both of which are made of sand from ancient dunes cemented together by calcite (calcium carbonate, CaC03), which is soluble in water. Moisture wicks through the porous rock, dissolving the calcite and then depositing it as crystals at the surface when it evaporates. Tafoni shows this process on overdrive: accelerated, focused weathering of pockets of rock with slightly hardened bands in between. What results is an intricate, lacy structure that often resembles a honeycomb.

In other places, you might see a straight line of holes in the rock. There, water has dissolved pockets of less-well-bonded sandstone, often at the contact between two rock layers. Tapping a rock surface will sometimes result in a "hollow" sound, indicating the presence of pockets within.

Did You Know?

Desert Bighorn Sheep

Once feared of becoming extinct, desert bighorn sheep are making a tentative comeback in southeast Utah due to reintroduction efforts by the National Park Service. There are roughly 50 sheep in Arches, though their shy nature keeps them well-hidden from most visitors. More...