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Every so often I'll run a series of articles that connect somehow. This week I'm featuring locations that show up in films. If you missed Monday's episode on The Princess Bride and The Cliffs of Moher, prepare to click this link


Arches National Park

In 1989 Indiana Jones whipped onto screens for the third time in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The majority of the film takes place in Europe and the Middle East, but the opening section features a young Indy (River Phoenix) finding his inner archaeologist in Utah. The stunning red stone structures in the beginning scenes were filmed in Arches National Park.
The opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Arches National Park is in eastern Utah. Its claim to fame is all in the name: the density of natural arches is higher here than any other spot in the world. The 76,679 acres at the park are home to more than 2,000 arches.

Most of the arch structures are in 140-million-year-old sandstone called the Entrada Formation. How did these arches come to be? The easy guess is water. That solution is partially correct, but the surprising workhorse in this situation is salt! To save you a wall-of-text explanation, watch this three-minute video on the geology of the arches from the National Parks Service:
How did the arches form?
In 1929 the area was proclaimed a National Monument by Herbert Hoover, who was a geologist before becoming president. National Monuments can be declared by presidents, but to become a National Park requires the movement of the U.S. Congress. Arches received the National Park dedication in 1971. The park is extremely popular, garnering 1.6 million visits per year, based on the latest statistics.

One of the most famous features is Delicate Arch. 16 meters (52 feet) high, the arch might support the dictionary definition of iconic. It was known by cowboys as "The Chaps" or "The Schoolmarm's Bloomers." It is featured on Utah's license plate, a quarter from the U.S. Mint, and a postage stamp celebrating Utah's centennial. In 2002 the Winter Olympic torch relay passed under Delicate Arch.
The park is full of incredible locations, including the fifth-longest natural arch in the world, called Landscape Arch. 

Young Indiana Jones and his fellow Boy Scouts explore some of the other notable landmarks in the National Park. They pass areas known as Park Avenue, Courthouse Towers, Balanced Rock, The Three Gossips, and Double Arch. It is near Double Arch that vigilante archaeologists find Coronado's Cross.
In 1968 Edward Abbey penned the nature wonderwork, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, an autobiographical work about his time as a park ranger in what is now Arches National Park (then National Monument). The book has been called a modern-day Walden for the desert. 

Here is the point in the article where I wrap it up by using a line from the film in a sappy way: these natural works of art belong in a museum! Luckily for us, the National Park is essentially an outdoor museum; unfortunately, this museum cannot prevent erosion. One day all the arches and features you see in these photos and videos will be gone.

Further Reading and Exploration

Arches National Park - Official National Parks Service Website

A Guide to Arches National Park - National Geographic Website

Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness - by Edward Abbey (e-book version)

Arches & Canyonlands National Parks - Moon Travel Guide (e-book version)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Directed by Steven Spielberg
Side-by-side video of Last Crusade and the spots in the park
Copyright © 2020 The Mountains Are Calling, All rights reserved.

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