The National Park Service designated Rainbow Bridge a Traditional Cultural Property, listing its historic and continuing cultural significance to six Native American tribes. At the same time they also added it to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s the first place in Utah to receive such a distinction.
The Hopi, Kaibab Paiute, Navajo, San Juan Southern Paiute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni nations all have cultural associations with Rainbow Bridge that date back before recorded history. A hearth near Rainbow Bridge is estimated to be 1,500 years old.
Being located inside a national monument gives Rainbow Bridge certain protections.
Being listed on the National Register of Historic Places adds another layer of protection to the ancient sandstone bridge.
A consultation with the associated traditional communities and a rigorous review process will now be required before initiation of any federal project that could affect the property.
“Anyone who has visited Rainbow Bridge can attest to its stunning beauty and unique value as an example of the geologic forces that have shaped this region for millions of years,” said William Shott, superintendent of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Rainbow Bridge National Monument. “Designation as a Traditional Cultural Property goes a step deeper, reflecting how meaningful Rainbow Bridge is to this region’s inhabitants. For centuries, if not milennia, it has inspired origin stories, ceremonial rites and pilgrimages for multiple tribes, and its focus as a site of vital meaning and cultural identity continues to this day.”
Rainbow Bridge was formed by the erosional forces of Bridge Creek, which carries water off the north side of Navajo Mountain. At 290 feet tall and spanning 275 feet it’s one of the largest natural arches in the world.
Rainbow Bridge attracted more than 86,000 visitors last year.
The bridge and 85 acres surrounding it was designated a national monument by President William Taft in 1910.