I got an early start this morning but it took me a while to find the side trail that leads up to Wrather Arch. As I noted in the prior post, Wrather is not a true arch as we may think of, but is rather a cave-type arch. Located within the Paría Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs wilderness, it is the least accessible natural bridge or arch in the southwestern United States, requiring an 18 mile round trip hike. So of course, having hiked so far to get to this point, I had to make sure that I made it to the Arch.
I did eventually find my way up to it, but it’s status as an arch is not obvious immediately. Shifting perspectives on the trail eventually makes this more obvious.
After making my way back down from Wrather to the main body of Paría Canyon, the journey continues upstream. This entire area of the canyon traverses the Kayenta Formation, with its distinctive red rock. Part of the Glen Canyon Group, the red color is formed by oxidized iron in the rock. The black spots, known to some as “rock varnish,” or “desert varnish,” caused by oxidized manganese staining on surface of the rock.
The canyon briefly widens slightly in the vicinity of the junction of Wrather Canyon and Paria Canyon as the river bends – clearly a spot where flooding has both widened the canyon and both eroded and deposited sediment on both banks.It allows the sun to paint the walls and bring out that ethereal glow.
The canyon, which had widened in the area around Wrather Canyon, soon narrows again, with towering Kayenta spires above.
Heading upstream, more of the geologic history of the area becomes obvious. Eroded fault cracks, some of the largest that I’ve ever seen, emerge in the Kayenta Formation. I make it to Big Spring for the night and set up camp in a sheltered location with my rain gear set up, knowing that there is the potential for rain overnight or in the morning.