The third bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument is Owachomo (which means “rock mound” in the Hopi language), and it is the oldest and most delicate. Natural bridges form when meanders of a river in a canyon become so pronounced that two arms of the meander get close enough together to create a very thin wall of rock. Water eventually breaks through, forming a new channel of flow. Bridges start out with very thick spans and small openings that are low and close to the river level, and these openings eventually wear and erode to develop a larger and larger opening. Finally, the top span gets so thin that erosion eventually causes it to collapse. Owachomo Bridge’s span is only nine feet thick, compared to Sipapu at 53 feet and Katchina at 93 feet. Owachomo could collapse this year or in another 500 years from now, but it will likely be the first of the three bridges to do so.
Owachomo Bridge is the easiest bridge to reach to by trail, being just a pretty easy quarter of a mile from the parking area. It is quite elegant in form and easier to photograph than the others because it is more out in the open. Stopping at the Owachomo Bridge is a great addition to the Supapu and Katchina Loop hike for those who don’t want to make the nearly 9-mile loop to hike the length of the canyon to see all three bridges.