Park’s 12th largest arch collapsed in the middle of the night with no witnesses and no injuries
On August 3, Wall Arch was one of the more prominent and accessible sandstone arches in Utah’s Arches National Park. At 71 feet high and and 33 1/2 feet wide, it was the 12th largest of the 2,000-plus arches known in the park, according to the National Park Service. Sometime on the night of August 4, Wall Arch came tumbling down, blocking a section of the Devil’s Garden Trail beyond Landscape Arch. Fortunately, the collapse did not occur during the day, when visitors frequent the trail. (The park service’s before and after photos appear below.)
“Not being a geologist, I can’t get very technical but it just went kaboom,” chief ranger Denny Ziemann told reporter Tom Wharton of the Salt Lake City Tribune. “The middle of the arch just collapsed under its own weight. It just happens.”
Wharton also wrote, “Ziemann said the trail closure extends from Double 0 Arch to Wall Arch. If the rest of Wall Arch falls soon, the Park Service will clear off the trail to make it passable. If it continues to teeter over the trail, it may be a while before the trail reopens.”
The park service itself reported that “On August 7, 2008, representatives from both the National Park Service Geologic Resources Division and the Utah Geological Survey visited the site and noted obvious stress fractures in the remaining formation.” The trail is currently closed because debris has not yet been removed — a tricky operation under any circumstances, but even more so in an area where motorized vehicles are generally not used.
Recognizing that natural phenomena are attractions in their own right, park service and the Moab Area Travel Council officials put a positive spin on the loss of one the park’s most iconic arches, describing the event as a rare opportunity to see “geology in action.”