These 10 amazing stone arches and natural bridges are brought to you by the hand of time, supported by the weathering action of wind and water. Time marches inexorably on, however, and the same forces that built up these exquisite natural wonders will someday sweep all of them away.
Rainbow Bridge, USA
Rainbow Bridge in southern Utah state is the world’s largest natural bridge. Although well known to local native tribes, the spectacular sandstone structure was not investigated by American researchers until the early years of the 20th century. This was partly due to the isolation of the structure, a fact remedied by the creation of Lake Powell and its tributary waterways.
(image via: TWAN)
Incorporated into Rainbow Bridge National Monument in 1910, Rainbow Bridge stands 88 m (290 ft) tall, has an 84 meter (275 ft) span and is 13 meters (42 ft) thick at its top point.
Aloba Arch, Chad
(image via: NaturalArches)
At 77 meters (250 feet) Aloba Arch is the longest known natural arch outside the United States. Where it surpasses most other natural arches is in height: a stunning 120 meters or 394 feet. Like the arches of the American southwest, Aloba Arch is made from hard sandstone hundreds of millions of years old. It’s located in the Ennedi Range which rises out of the Sahara Desert in the northeast part of Chad near the border with Libya and Sudan.
(image via: NaturalArches)
The Sahara Desert abounds with natural arches and stone bridges. Aloba Arch may be one of the best known but the above bipod arch in Algeria is worth special mention due to its unusual beauty and exquisite fragility. Though 1.9 meters (6.23 ft) high, the arch’s thinner leg is a mere 15 cm (6 inches) thick. How much longer can it last?
Durdle Door, United Kingdom
If the name “Durdle Door” sounds English, well, that’s because it’s found in southern England along Dorset’s delightfully named Jurassic Coast. Durdle Door is not so much a door as a window, though, through which the chill waters of the English Channel pour through.
(image via: Southern Antiques)
The headland that includes Durdle Door is made of Portland Limestone, a material harder than the clays and silts it protects but itself not impervious to the pounding of the waves. Durdle Door is destined to yawn ever wider until one day, its roof will fall in and one side becomes an island in the channel.
Immortal Bridge, China
(image via: China Daily)
On the steep slopes of Mt Tai in China’s Shandong province, you’ll find the Immortal Bridge. Hopefully you won’t be forced to cross it on the way to complete your journey. Looking like a scene from an Indiana Jones flick, the Immortal Bridge is formed from massive stone blocks precariously balanced against one another.
(image via: Wikipedia)
Should a strong earthquake jostle the region, the bridge – and anyone crossing it – would be thrown into the deep gorge at the base of Mt Tai. Immortality, it would seem, is a relative thing.
Pont d’Arc, France
In the south of France, the river Ardèche has worn through an escarpment of ancient limestone forming the Pont d’Arc. This scenic natural bridge measures 60 meters (197 ft) wide and is 45 meters (147.5 ft) in height.
(image via: Insolite)
The Pont d’Arc is a popular tourist attraction as the limestone rock in the region houses a number of prehistoric sites and caves, such as the famed Chauvet Cave. The town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc normally is home to about 2,000 people but that figure increases by a factor of 10 in the summer months.
Delicate Arch, USA
Utah’s Arches National Park contains over 2,000 natural stone arches and bridges but 16 meter (52 ft) tall Delicate Arch is the most famous by far. Curiously, the arch wasn’t included in the original 1929 scope of the park, only being added when the park’s boundaries were enlarged in 1938.
(image via: Ben de Rienzo)
Since 1970, 43 natural stone arches in Utah’s Arches National Park have crashed to the ground. The problem is nothing new and, sadly, every extant arch will someday fall to pieces. It’s worthy to note that in the 1950s, the U. S. National Park Service considered coating Delicate Arch in clear plastic to halt further erosion. Although planned with the best of intentions, it’s just as well it wasn’t put into practice.
Moon Hill, Yangshuo, China
Moon Hill is just one of many arches and natural bridges found throughout Yangshuo County in Guilin, southern China. Millions of years of erosion has carved the Karst Limestone bedrock of the area into phantasmagorical shapes that seem to defy the laws of gravity. Moon Hill is perhaps the most famous arch in the region. This huge window takes on the appearance of a crescent moon whose phases vary depending on one’s viewing location.
(image via: Yangshuo Mountain Retreat)
Sheer vertical drops and copious handholds in the rough limestone have made Yangshuo into a rock climber’s paradise. In the past decade or so, dozens of professional outfits have been formed to ensure climbers enjoy the best possible recreational experience along with more than acceptable service and safety infrastructure.
London Arch, Australia
Located in Port Campbell National Park, Victoria state, Australia, London Arch lies just offshore where it is continually pounded by ocean waves and tidal swells.
(image via: Armchair Travelogue)
London Arch was formerly part of London Bridge, a spectacular double-arched formation connected to the shoreline. On January 15th, 1990, the arch nearer the shore suddenly collapsed stranding two visitors on the suddenly isolated remaining arch.
The Azure Window, Malta
The Azure Window, or Tieqa Żerqa, is a natural arch formed millions of years ago when a limestone cave collapsed. The arch can be found on the island of Gozo in Malta. One of the larger sea arches and one of Malta’s most popular tourist attractions as well, The Azure Window offers viewers a 50 meter (164 ft) high window on the deep blue Mediterranean Sea.
(image via: Malta-Info)
Nothing lasts forever and The Azure Window is no different. Maltese authorities have warned visitors not to get too close to the arch as a number of rock falls from its roof have raised safety issues. It’s estimated that The Azure Window’s remaining lifespan can be measured in years, if that.
Shipton’s Arch, China
Shipton’s Arch, or Tushuk Tash in the local Uyghur language, can be found in the rugged badlands of Kashgar, in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Finding it wasn’t easy: the formation was unknown to western observers until British mountaineer George Shipton discovered it in 1947. Recognized today as the tallest natural stone arch on Earth, Shipton’s Arch stands 365 meters (1,200 ft) tall – roughly the height of the Empire State Building.
(image via: Slides/Pro)
This huge natural arch was “lost” for some time after Shipton publicized it; it had been listed in the Guinness World Book of Records for a time but was dropped after the editors could not ascertain its exact location. It wasn’t until the year 2000 that a team of researchers from National Geographic made a successful expedition to Shipton’s Arch and documented its soaring magnificence.
(image via: Wild Nature Images)
Like sunsets, stone arches and bridges are ephemeral in nature – a quality that only enhances their stark beauty. By viewing and studying their rise and fall, one can truly appreciate the incredible length of time required for earth’s geological processes to run their course.