Disaster at Arches National Park

Wall Arch, 12th largest, one of the better-known and most-seen natural arches in Arches National Park, Utah, collapsed.

Wall Arch, before and after collapse - National Park Service photos

Wall Arch, before and after collapse – National Park Service photos

“Not being a geologist, I can’t get very technical but it just went kaboom,” [Arches NP] Chief Ranger Denny Ziemann said. “The middle of the arch just collapsed under its own weight. It just happens.”

Wall Arch, located along the popular Devils Garden Trail, was 71 feet tallwide and 33 1/2 feet widetall, ranking it 12th in size among the known arches inside the park. Lewis T. McKinney first reported and named Wall Arch in 1948.

No one reported observing the arch collapse and there were no visitor injuries, the National Park Service said.

Read the report from the Salt Lake Tribune.

Some tourist on Sunday, August 3, or Monday, August 4, got the last photograph of Wall Arch still standing. Was it you? Were you close? Give us a shout in the comments if so.

Other resources:


Other blogs and later reports:

30 Responses to Disaster at Arches National Park

  1. […] “Disaster at Arches National Park,” on the collapse of Wall Arch […]


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    That’s funny! That came out of the news report, and at least here, no one noticed until now?


  3. janet says:

    the facts noted above on the width and height of the former window arch are not correct- they are switched. Check out the Arches official site for accurate information.


  4. Rich says:

    My wife and I were there on August 8th, taking pictures of the park in general. So cool to be near history in action but erosion and weathering always takes its’ toll.


  5. mpb says:

    Did all you people really stand under the arch? I wouldn’t stand anywhere near a rock face in the southwest. They always throw things at you.


  6. Steve Cox says:

    I took a picture standing beneath Wall Arch on Sunday 3rd August. You can see it by following this link:


    Amazing geological formations in that part of the world.

    It cracks me up that in 2008 many of you Americans think that God made it all. It’s time to move on guys.

    Southampton, UK


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    Wow! Chris, you may have close to the last photo of it standing — maybe the last one.

    If you have it in electronic form, I’d be happy to put it up on this blog simply for history’s sake.

    Want to share?


  8. chris calhoun says:

    Amazing. I was there at lunch time on August 4. Have a picture of my wife and daughter under it. Incredible to think it was less than 24 hours before it fell.


  9. Kristin says:


    Who do you think created the wind and the water that contributed to the erosion?


  10. Ed Darrell says:

    Erosion can work fast, Peter. Earthquakes contribute. Destruction of these things can be very quick.

    But it’s silliness to claim, as the Answers in Genesis site claims, that the formations were made during one flood event a few thousand years ago. There is not a piece of evidence on God’s Earth to support such a wild claim. Anyone can count the layers in the stones that form the arches, and understand that such layering takes more than a few days to lay down, and more than a few months to lithify.

    The natural stone columns Lewis and Clark wrote about in Montana, in the headwaters of the Missouri River, came down overnight. Vandals destroyed them. Quick destruction does not imply quick construction. Destruction of a temple does not imply that construction was as quick.

    I’m curious about your claim of 43 arches collapsing in Arches NP since 1970. Certainly not major arches — but I can’t find corroboration of the figure. Where do you get that?


  11. Peter says:

    There are about 2,000 arches in the park, and apparently about 43 arches have collapsed since 1970. The idea that it took millions of years to create these, but only 40 years to lose 2% of them seems far fetched.

    In July 2005, one of the 12 Apostle sea stacks off the coast of Victoria Australia collapse into the sea. This was a shock to geologists that we were able to witness this happen considering it took 20 million years to be formed.



  12. spencercourt says:

    Kate…better get over not to just Arches but ALL the national and state parks in southern Utah. We visited them all in 1994 and they are spectacular. Eventually, Delicate Arch, probably the most photographed of the arches, will also collapse. I believe a portion of the Sentinel, in Bryce, collapsed some years ago.

    You can take a “virtual tour” of that 1994 “Grand Circle” (southenr utah and northern Arizon including Mesa Verde) by visiting my travel photo website:


  13. Julian says:

    Too bad but it’s part of the natural process. We were just there in the summer, and we were lucky to have pictures of it.


  14. Ed Darrell says:

    This is a relatively free forum. Crude expressions of wishes of violence or death on others looks rude, labels the expressor as lacking in refinement, and should otherwise be avoided.

    Don’t make me edit your posts.


  15. MormonisNOTtheTrueReligion says:

    mormonsoprano Says:

    August 12, 2008 at 4:41 pm
    Thank HEAVEN no one was nearby when it fell! THAT would have been a disaster.

    Leave to a MORMON….you idiot…
    Thank HEAVEN no one was nearby when it fell! THAT would have been a disaster (NO…it would have been a FATALITY)
    Too bad you and all the other mormons weren’t underneath it.


  16. 1fachtiere says:

    i think also, that is natural process..

    P.S. you have a nice Blog!


  17. masqueinstantes says:

    that’s nature process,and that is nothing compare with what’s next on the ten following years …


  18. blulady says:

    That is a shame to know it’s fallen. I have a photo of my son and I when we travelled through there but it was a few years ago and many more have visited the site since. Nature takes it’s toll again. :(


  19. Cy Quick says:

    When oh when are we going to wake up to the catastrophic break up of Pangea? We absolutely have to stop playing soccer and generally having fun. We got to the Moon so why oh why can we not stick oh stick the continents back oh back together again?

    Cy Quick at mydigest.wordpress.com


  20. tancred62 says:

    I work for the NPS, though not out West. We have some arches in a nice park here in the Southeast Region.

    It is neither good nor bad that the Wall Arch fell down. That is one of the points of a “natural” park, that is, to let nature just happen. Remember the Yellowstone fires? You should see the centuries-waiting new growth there now. Wow.

    And that “Old Man of The Mountain” had long been artificially secured with cables and bolts a long time before it finally collapsed. It was cool, but artificially kept “alive” because it looked a bit like ourselves… : )


  21. mormonsoprano says:

    Thank HEAVEN no one was nearby when it fell! THAT would have been a disaster. It seems quite miraculous to me, since this is such a hugely popular tourist site.


  22. free forum says:

    good i like this blog


  23. Cameron says:

    It wasn’t a creation of God.. it was a creation of wind and water erosion.


  24. Archie says:

    Reminds me of a terrorist plot to destroy national monuments. Just kidding, but it really is a shame to loose unique creations of God.


  25. Liam says:

    Reminds me of the collapse of The Old Man of the Mountain in New Hampshire. The loss of an icon, something that literally is made of stone and has survived generations, eons even. But also a natural process.


  26. Ed Darrell says:

    NCES used to have a great graphic in their newsletter with the note: “When you set your watch on geologic time, the ground moves beneath your feet.”


  27. Kate says:

    I’ve had that on my list of places to see for a few years now. It’s been a priority. Now once again I’m reminded that nothing is permanent, and that it’s important to seize the day.


  28. flatlander100 says:


    You beat me to it. Exactly. In fact, these things, when they happen, provide teaching moments — or maybe teaching decades. They’re helpful in getting people who don’t do much reading or thinking about geology, except when on vacation in places like Arches or the Grand Canyon, that the “eternal” rocks they’re looking at with such awe are really constantly changing, constantly in motion, just v-e-r-y v-e-r-y slowly. Once you start thinking of what you see in the world around you that way, it’s hard to stop. You begin looking at everything… the flat high plains of west Texas, the bayou country of Louisiana, the Rockies — you name it —- as geologic motion pictures with the speed turned [from our POV] way way down. [John McPhee’s three geology-based books is what did it for me. ]

    Not a disaster at all.


  29. zhoen says:


    Natural process.


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