Blog Post Todd Christopher Mar 2, 2023

It's Arch Madness!

Choose the winners as an elite group of 8 world-famous landmarks square off in a light-hearted park-to-park competition

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 fuel local economies and bring Americans from all walks of life together.

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 we need your help to pick a national champion!

Round 1 netted these Final Four. To determine who goes to the championship matchup, be sure to vote in the Round 2 poll before midnight Eastern time on Sunday, March 26!

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.



While they’re all winners in NPCA’s eyes, here are the arches voted out of the Arch Madness competition so far.

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!

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.  

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?  

Gateway Arch (Gateway Arch National Park)

With its redesignation in 2018 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?

Reminder: The second round of polling closes at midnight Eastern time on Sunday, March 26.

About the author

  • Todd Christopher Senior Managing Director, Digital & Editorial Strategy

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