Rainbow Bridge

 Over the Rainbow

Birds could fly over the rainbow and you could walk over it, but be careful, it's a high bridge. To get there we left our boats where Aztec Creek joins the Colorado River and took off on the six-mile walk, up an exquisite little stream you could dip into when you got too hot, or cool yourself by sipping from one of the ice-cold dripping springs along the way.

Where a deep gorge entered Aztec Creek we switched to the smaller Bridge Creek excited, because we knew the sacred Rainbow Bridge was about to reveal itself. It challenged me to climb it, which Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and I did, and I had the pleasure of teaching him how to rappel so that he could get back down easily. Then came the real treat, one more icy spring, dripping directly just under the bridge. You needed was a cup to catch the wonderful drips in.

Take your time and wonder how such a marvelous structure ever happened. Sure enough, are were the old meanders, deeply incised, and the stream that has built them, and probably is not yet satisfied with what it has accomplished.

Henry David Thoreau had it right:

The finest works in stone are not copper or steel tools, but the gentle touches of air and water working at their leisure with a liberal allowance of time.

And there, in due course, water had found a meander with a weakness, had rallied around a century or so of air, and together they punched through and there was Rainbow Bridge. How much water? It should have taken a lot of it, a few raging flash floods or so, when you look up at the grandeur of the great arch. Or maybe not. Thirty years ago I made a film that concentrated on the delicate handiwork of that same stream, allowing it to fashion a little series of oval pools, each two or three inches deep and two or three feet long, every one pleasantly carved in its own way, and I could imagine that Michaelangelo must have paused there once, and the stream showed him what stone was for. I lost the film, and just rediscovered it. I think you can still get a copy of it from the Glen Canyon Institute, which is doing its best to get those pools, and similar treasures, restored. Come by after the draining and check them out, and see what this part of the world was like when Congress voted to protect it at Rainbow Bridge National Monument, then welshed on the deal. They can unwelch, and restore what Wallace Stegner was talking about:

 . . . We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.

David R. Brower              
Chairman, Earth Island Institute  
July 1 ,  2000                                      


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[Photograph: Phillip Hyde]