To kick off our southwest USA road trip, we scheduled three full days in Moab to see Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and to photograph the Milky Way.
We were hampered by road closures at Arches National Park (NP). This season, all park roads are closed for construction weekdays from 7 pm to 7 am. Since dawn was at 6 am and sunset was at 8:30 pm during our visit, the road closure prevented photos of sunrise, sunset, and stars on weekdays. A significant hiking area was closed entirely. 😦
As planned, we arrived in Moab on a Wednesday, one day before the new moon. Moonlight can obscure the faint stars of the Milky Way, so considering the moon phase is important when photographing Milky Way.
Our first morning in Moab was overcast — unfortunate because flat, gray light doesn’t bring out the best in the red rock. We started with the area’s most popular sight, entering Arches NP before the Visitor’s Center opened to hike to Delicate Arch. The hike is 3 miles (4.8 km) roundtrip and climbs 480 feet (146m). With no shade, hiking on a cloudy morning is easier than on a hot afternoon.
Depicted on Utah’s license plates, Delicate Arch is 60 feet tall (18m). People queued up to get their turn for a photo under Delicate Arch, rushing in when their turn came up. The snow-capped peaks of the La Sal Mountains lie outside the Park, beyond the Colorado River. (La Sal means salt in Spanish.)
There’s a long, steep drop-off on the near side of Delicate Arch, and an much longer drop-off on the other side.
From the Park Visitor’s Guide,
Arches National Park has the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world. There are over 2,000 documented arches in the park, ranging from sliver-thin cracks to spans greater than 300 feet (97 m). …
Deep beneath the surface lies a thick layer of salts. Squeezed by the tons of rock above it, the salt bulged upward, creating long domes. The rock layers covering these domes were forced to crack, like the surface of freshly-baked bread, into a series of more-or-less parallel lines. …
As erosion happens, a variety of shapes begin to appear.
According to the Park Service, the valley beyond Delicate Arch was formed after a large salt dome collapsed. And the “Salt” Mountains in the distance were named by the Spanish before geologists developed the story of salt domes and the resulting arches.
The trail to Delicate Arch passes near a smaller arch that provides a framed view of the arch. The tiny specks on the rock are people. As usual, click on any photo for a larger image.
Back near the parking lot, we saw some native American rock art.