Our first stop, as always, was the Visitor Center. There is an informative video about the park, a park gift shop, and educational exhibits.
An underground salt bed, created 300 million years ago when a sea flowed through the Colorado Plateau and then evaporated, is responsible for the amazing landscape at Arches National Park. It is thousands of feet thick in some places. Residue from floods, winds, and oceans that came and went then covered the salt bed. The debris was compressed into rock. This heavy layer of rock caused the salt bed to be unstable resulting in the landscape seen today.
This area has the greatest density of natural arches in the world with over 2,000 documented arches ranging in size from a 3' opening to the longest that is 306'. In addition to arches, the sculpted rock scenery here includes monoliths, spires, balanced rocks, and sandstone fins.
We proceeded to the scenic drive stopping at each overlook. Some of the rock features are close to the road and other stops provide access to trails to notable formations. Having arrived in Moab the afternoon of 9/15/2015, we were anxious to see at least some of this park today and the rest tomorrow.
Our first stop was the Park Avenue Viewpoint. This wall of Entrada sandstone fins (on the right) are said to look like skyscrapers, hence the name.
La Sal Mountains Viewpoint. The La Sal Mountains can be seen in the background. Also from this view point you can see the landmark rock formations (from left to right) of Three Gossips, Sheep Rock, Towers of Babel, and The Organ.
Courthouse Tower Viewpoint. Rain earlier in the day created these interesting puddles on the slickrock at this viewpoint.
Petrified Dunes Viewpoint. Covered with extensive sand dunes 200 million years ago, tons of sand were blown into the area by winds from the northwest. The sand drifts were covered by sediment and cemented by quartz and calcite into Navajo Sandstone. The Great Wall extends for several miles on the opposite side of the park road at this location.
Balanced Rock. The caprock is Entrada Sandstone and sits upon a pedestal of mudstone. The bottom is weathering more quickly than the top...which will eventually cause it to topple. There is a trail around Balanced Rock to enable views from different perspectives.
Garden of Eden.
Some of the arches in the park are at first difficult to recognize because there are rocks behind the openings. Here is example of that.
At the Windows Section are the North Window, South Window, and Turret Arch. It is a short hike on a well-maintained path to see these amazing arches.
The views in all directions at dusk were very beautiful.
At this point, we ended our visit to Arches for the day planning to return on the following day to explore the remainder of the overlooks north of Balanced Rock.
Admission to the park is $15/vehicle for 7-day pass. Our Senior Pass gets us in for free. For additional information about the park and things to do there, check out their website.