As most people are well aware at this point, the vast majority of the parks within the national park system are closed due to the government shutdown. A few states have worked with the government and they have decided to reopened a few parks with state funds. It’s important to note that just because a state has decided to reopen some parks within their state, that doesn’t mean that all of the national parks sites within their state are open. The number of sites open is still only a small percentage of the 401 sites that make up the national park system. Below is the current list of sites that are currently open, along with the dates that they are scheduled to remain open:
Grand Canyon National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 12 to 18)
Rocky Mountain National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 11 to 20)
Statue of Liberty National Monument (currently scheduled to be open from October 12 to 18)
North Carolina / Tennessee
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (currently scheduled to be open from October 16 to 20)
Mount Rushmore National Memorial (currently scheduled to be open from October 14 to 23)
All Utah parks are currently scheduled to be open from October 11 – 20
Arches National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park
Canyonlands National Park
Capitol Reef National Park
Cedar Breaks National Monument
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Natural Bridges National Monument
Zion National Park
When people visit Utah, and the many national parks there, Natural Bridges National Monument often gets overlooked (I have to honestly admit that I have bypassed it a couple of times in the past in order to make my way to more famous national parks in the area). Now that I have gone, I know that I will be back to do what appears to be an absolutely breathtaking canyon hike which I didn’t have time to do this time around.
Natural Bridges National Monument offers a 9 mile loop drive that has overlook pullouts to view the three main bridges in the park. This makes it a destination for those who don’t want to (or can’t) hike, as well as those that love to hike. The first bridge view along the road is of Sipapu Bridge (220 feet high, 268 feet long, 31 feet wide and 53 feet thick) and gives a good indication of the beauty of the entire national monument (wouldn’t you just love to hike the winding canyon along with river under all the natural bridges?)
The information sign at the bridge view give the following information:
Several names have been given the the bridges over the years. Sipapu has had at least two other names — President and Augusta — but these were later changed. Cliff dwellings and rock art in the area reminded William Douglass, the leader of the 1908 government survey, of the Hopi culture he had studied extensively in Arizona. Charged with finding “appropriate Indian names” for the bridges, he chose Sipapu, meaning “place of emergence.”
Cedar Mesa, a million acre plateau encompassing the monument and surrounding are, is composed of nearly horizontal sedimentary rock layers. During the Permian Period, wind blown sands from the north and west were deposited here as dunes. Later sediments buried these dunes and with time, pressure and moisture, they became”petrified” sand, or sandstone. Today geologists label this layer Cedar Mesa Sandstone.
Buried, then tilted and uplifted, the sandstone was slowly exposed by meandering streams which carried away the overlying sediments. These streams helped carve Sipapu and other bridges.