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Click on the pictures below to read more about the hike.
Death Valley's dramatic relief is the result of fracturing and tilting of the Earth's surface, which transformed the regions' once featureless terrain to the spectacular landscape present today. Long before the formation of Death Valley's rugged landscape, low hills and plains characterized the region's terrain. Explosive volcanic eruptions, originating from the northeast in Nevada, periodically covered the Death Valley region with ash and pumice. These layers eventually totalled more than 4,000 feet in thickness during their period of accumulation 27 to 7 million years ago. These colorful deposits, known today as the Artist Drive Formation, can be seen in the steep slopes of the Black Mountains north of this canyon. Following deposition of the Artist Drive volcanic material, folding and fracturing of the earth's brittle crust produced mountains and valleys. Rock fragments eroding off mountains, collected at the valley's edge as low angle slopes or "alluvial fans". Natural Bridge was carved in one such alluvial fan of the Furnace Creek Formation, deposited during the late-Pliocene epoch (5-3 million years ago). This fan is composed largely of erosional fragments of Artist Drive Formation. Continued fracturing or 'faulting' of the earth's crust allowed "blocks" of crust to slip, or "downdrop", past one another. As blocks of crust were downdropping to form Death Valley, about 3 million years ago, rocks within the blocks were being moved from their original locations of deposition. In this manner, Natural Bridge alluvial fan was moved or "displaced" down towards the slowly deepening valley floor, towards what was to become Death Valley. This "valley forming" process is active today. During the last several thousand years, periodic flashflooding eroded an ever-deepening channel into the ancient alluvial fan. This resulted in the formation of this canyon, and its' splendid centerpiece - Natural Bridge.