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Aztec Ruins

Capulin Mountain

Casa Grande

Chaco Canyon


Craters of the Moon

Devils Tower


El Morro

Fossil Cycad

George Washington Birthplace

Glacier Bay

Gran Quivira



Lewis and Clark Cavern

Montezuma Castle

Muir Woods

Natural Bridges


Petrified Forest


Pipe Spring

Rainbow Bridge

Scotts Bluff

Shoshone Cavern





Yucca House

Glimpses of Our
National Monuments


Rainbow Bridge
The Rainbow Bridge.
Photo by Carson.

The existence of this natural wonder was first disclosed to Prof. Byron Cummings, then of the University of Utah, in the early summer of 1908, by Mrs. John Wetherill, who related to him vague descriptions she had obtained from a Piute Indian. During the winter of 1908-9 Mrs. Wetherill found two Piutes, Nashja and his son, Nashja-bega, who actually had seen the bridge. Acting upon Professor Cummings's request, Mrs. Wetherill engaged these men to serve as guides for the following summer. Under guidance of John Wetherill and Nashja-bega, a party consisting of Professor Cummings and three student assistants, and W. B. Douglass, surveyor of the General Land Office, and his four assistants, reached the bridge on August 14, 1909—the first white men to behold this most colossal of known natural arches. The following year, on May 30, 1910, it was made a national monument upon the recommendation of Mr. Douglass. It embraces an area of 160 acres.

Rainbow Bridge is the greatest among the known natural bridges of the world, and is unique in that it is not only a symmetrical arch below but presents a curved surface above, thus roughly imitating the arch of the rainbow, for which it is named in Piute mythology. Thus to the Piutes the bridge is known as "Barahoini"; but the Navajos call it "Nonnezoshi," meaning "hole in the rock," or "arch." It is also referred to as "Nageelid Nonnezoshi"—"rainbow arch."

The bridge partly spans Bridge Canyon, which extends from Navajo Mountain northwestward to the Colorado River. The dimensions are 309 feet in the clear from the bottom of the gorge and 278 feet from pier to pier. If it could be arched over the Dome of the Capitol at Washington there would still be room to spare. Of salmon pink sandstone, its proportions are so nearly perfect it dwarfs all human architecture of the sort.

The Rainbow Bridge Monument is situated a little north of the Arizona line in Utah within the Piute Indian Reservation.

The nearest railroad station is Flagstaff, Ariz., on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. From here the trip is made by automobile to the foot of Navajo Mountain, where Rainbow Lodge is operated by Hubert Richardson, of Winslow, Ariz., a licensed Indian trader. From the lodge at Navajo Mountain the trip to the Rainbow Bridge must be made by pack train, at least three days being required for the round trip. By making advance arrangements with Mr. Richardson an automobile can be engaged to make the trip from Flagstaff to the lodge at Navajo Mountain.

John Wetherill, of Kayenta, Ariz., custodian of the Navajo National Monument, also is prepared to take parties by pack and saddle horses to the Rainbow Bridge, a 10-day round trip. From Kayenta trips may also be made to the beautiful Monument Valley, with its brilliant crimson buttes towering 500 feet and more above the shifting desert sands.

The Fred Harvey Co., operating hotel and transportation service at the Grand Canyon National Park, has installed automobile transportation service from the Grand Canyon to Rainbow Lodge and return. The round trip will consume five days. The route lies across the Painted Desert, the home of the Navajo Indians. Along the way are found dinosaur tracks and petrified trees. Some of the finest and most rugged scenery in Arizona is encountered in this region.

Private motorists can reach Rainbow Lodge, at the foot of Navajo Mountain, either from the Grand Canyon or from Flagstaff, which is on the National Old Trails Road.

The ruins of the Navajo National Monument can be visited by short trips from Rainbow Lodge.

The Rainbow Bridge National Monument belongs to the group of southwestern monuments under the supervision of Superintendent Pinkley. There is no local custodian.


Last Modified: Thurs, Oct 19 2000 10:00:00 pm PDT

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