Blog Post Todd Christopher Mar 11, 2020

It's Arch Madness!

Choose the winners as an elite group of 8 national park landmarks square off in a decidedly light-hearted competition

Update, March 12, 2020: In light of the developing COVID-19 pandemic, NPCA is following the lead of the NCAA and suspending its competition as the country focuses on more urgent and serious concerns. Thanks to all who participated.

 

March is here, bringing with it a popular athletic tournament that now attracts some 100 million viewers.

Even more popular? America’s national parks, which last year welcomed more than 327 million visitors — the third-highest tally on record — even as the parks face the challenge of a nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog and mounting reductions in staff. Fortunately, new legislation could soon offer relief. The parks fuel local economies and bring Americans from all walks of life together. Failing to fund them sufficiently is, well, madness.

In the spirit of the season, we’ve created a tournament bracket featuring eight national park icons that range from the roughly curvilinear to the spectacularly parabolic — that is to say, they’re all arches, more or less. And this, friends, is Arch Madness.

No archenemies here: There’s nothing on the line but bragging rights. Every one of these contestants is a winner in our eyes.

Read the tale of the tape and vote for your favorites below.

The second round of voting closes at noon Eastern time on March 18.

 

Vote in Round 2

Contest 1: Delicate vs. Natural

Delicate Arch (Arches National Park)

The famous arch that Edward Abbey called “a weird, lovely, fantastic object” is surely a tournament favorite. Millions of visitors — not to mention Utah license plates — can’t be wrong. But is it ripe for an upset?

Natural Bridge (Bryce Canyon National Park)

What’s in a name? In this case, a bit of an error. Natural bridges are formed by flowing water, while natural arches, such as this one, are formed by erosive forces. No matter. By any name, this one’s a real beauty.

 

Contest 2: Mesa vs. Rainbow

Mesa Arch (Canyonlands National Park)

Is there a more famous national park photo op than the sunrise as viewed from Mesa Arch? The formation itself is modest in size, but this canyon country icon is ready to take on all comers.

Rainbow Bridge (Rainbow Bridge National Monument)

As its name suggests, Rainbow Bridge is not an arch but a natural bridge, and one of the world’s largest, at that. It’s a spectacular sight, and one that remains sacred to the Native American tribes of the Colorado Plateau.

 

Results from Round 1

Contest 1: Delicate vs. Landscape

Delicate Arch (Arches National Park)

The famous arch that Edward Abbey called “a weird, lovely, fantastic object” is surely a tournament favorite. Millions of visitors — not to mention Utah license plates — can’t be wrong. But is it ripe for an upset?

Landscape Arch (Arches National Park)

Longer than a football field yet only 11 feet thick at its center, this impressive formation defies gravity. Or at least it mostly does; a massive, 60-foot-long slab fell away from its underside in 1991. Boom!

 

Contest 2: Natural vs. Sipapu

Natural Bridge (Bryce Canyon National Park)

What’s in a name? In this case, a bit of an error. Natural bridges are formed by flowing water, while natural arches, such as this one, are formed by erosive forces. No matter. By any name, this one’s a real beauty.

Sipapu Bridge (Natural Bridges National Monument)

The largest and most spectacular of the three natural bridges in the park site named after them, Sipapu Bridge is 220 feet high — that’s taller than 30 Shaquille O’Neals.

 

Contest 3: Mesa vs. Roosevelt

Mesa Arch (Canyonlands National Park)

Is there a more famous national park photo op than the sunrise as viewed from Mesa Arch? The formation itself is modest in size, but this canyon country icon is ready to take on all comers.

Roosevelt Arch (Yellowstone National Park)

One of two man-made contenders, this triumphal arch made of columnar basalt famously bears a phrase from the 1872 legislation that established Yellowstone: “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Who can argue with that?

 

Contest 4: Rainbow vs. Gateway

Rainbow Bridge (Rainbow Bridge National Monument)

As its name suggests, Rainbow Bridge is not an arch but a natural bridge, and one of the world’s largest, at that. It’s a spectacular sight, and one that remains sacred to the Native American tribes of the Colorado Plateau.

Gateway Arch (Gateway Arch National Park)

With its recent redesignation as a national park, Gateway Arch has been on a roll — but can this steel arch steal victory from the geologic formations in the field?

The first round of polling closes at noon on Wednesday, March 11. The second round opens at noon on Thursday, March 12.

About the author

  • Todd Christopher Senior Director, Digital & Editorial Strategy

    Todd guides NPCA's content strategy and leads the team that produces our website and magazine. He is also the author of The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids.