Awed by Arches

Tower of Babel

As a flatlander from Philadelphia, where the steepest thing probably is a sidewalk curb, I was quite unprepared for the amazing rock formations in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. These sandstone monoliths just seem to spring out of nowhere, careening upward from a virtually flat plain and dwarfing everything around them. It is as though you came upon 100 -story buildings out in the middle of the desert.

The Tower of Babel shown in the photo is one such example. It is way bigger than most buildings in Philadelphia. Well, maybe that was a bad example. Most things are bigger than a Philadelphia building, as I’m sure W.C. Fields would agree. But it is huge, and as a photographer, I was puzzled by how best to convey its immensity. Finally a Mini Cooper obligingly drove by, providing a perfect size comparison – mini versus maxi. And it isn’t just the size of these formations that awes; it is their sheer number. There is an amazing new one around every bend. You could stop every two minutes and photograph for hours.

I was there in March, when the day began with gusty winds and 18-degree temperatures, and I barely noticed the cold for all the scenery. The only difficult part of the whole trip was keeping my eyes on the road, especially on the steep, winding entrance road into the park. It was best to just find a parking area and roam around, walking along steep ravines carved by flash floods and getting a good sense not only of the layers of geology in the dry stream beds alone, but just how tenaciously the tree roots wormed into every little crevice in the rocks. Arches National Park and its nearby companion, Canyonlands National Park, are studies in the immensity of geological history.

You don’t have to know the names of all the geologic periods involved in the creation of this wonderland. All you have to do is stand there was look at what thousands of years of erosion has wrought.

Moderator’s Note:

The Tower of Babel is an isolated rock formation that sits right along the road through Arches National Park and is just beyond the famous area known as Park Avenue just before the road descends toward Courthouse Wash.  


  1. Jeff Clow says:

    You captured the majesty of the location….and the area….so well here. Great photo work and a fine recap of the locale from a visitor’s perspective.

    Very nicely done.

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