This article is from
Creation 40(4):23, October 2018

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The age of arches


(Article updated 7 October 2020)

Copyright: diro / 123RF Stock Photoarch
One of the arches mentioned, which is featured on Utah number plates

We had an article in Creation magazine in 2015 about the instability of a lot of geological features that are touted as being ‘millions of years’ old. The common belief that cliffs and arches have been there a long time and are therefore stable in our lifetime, and unlikely to give way under someone standing on them today, the author judged a “dangerous view”.1

Probably the most famous example of rock arches is Arches National Park in Utah, USA. Typical of such features in national parks, the explanation given is: “Millions of years of erosion and weathering are responsible…”.2

Arches National Park has over 2,000 rock arches. Forty-three collapsed between 1977 and 2015, according to park rangers.3 That gives a rate of collapse of about one per year, allowing that vandals might have destroyed a small number. Such an attrition rate would mean that all would be gone in about 2,000 years, at the prevailing rates of erosion from wind and rain.

This is thoroughly consistent with the biblical timeframe, as it easily fits with the iconic features of Arches National Park forming at the end of Noah’s Flood, about 4,500 years ago.4

However, it is quite inconsistent with the claim that the features are old; even just 100,000 years would mean an original number of arches of 50 times the number of arches still standing. The numbers just don’t add up for ‘deep time’.

The conditions that formed these arches do not prevail today, so no new arches are forming in the National Park—and certainly not at a rate of one per year. Again, this is consistent with the real history of the world from the Bible, with the arches forming under the special conditions that prevailed in the Flood or soon after.

The Bible’s real history makes sense of the real-world evidence around us; if we only have eyes to see!

References and notes

  1. Catchpoole, D., A dangerous view, Creation 37(2):12–15, April 2015; creation.com/a-dangerous-view. Return to text.
  2. Himiak, L., Arches National Park, Utah, Updated 17th May 2017; tripsavvy.com/arches-national-park-utah-3361622. Return to text.
  3. O’Hanlon, L., Natural arches hum their health and scientists are listening, 7 August 2015; blogs.agu.org/geospace/2015/08/07/natural-arches-hum-their-health-and-scientists-are-listening. Return to text.
  4. Oard, M., Many arches and natural bridges likely from the Flood, J. Creation 23(1):115–118, 2009; creation.com/natural-bridges. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Rock Solid Answers
by Michael J Oard, John K Reed
US $20.00
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Arby A.
"That gives a rate of collapse of about one per year, which means that all would be gone in about 2,000 years, at the prevailing rates of erosion from wind and rain."
I could be wrong but I don't think the correct extrapolation of the data is that they “all would be gone in about 2,000 years”. If they were all formed at around the same time (about 4500 years ago) shouldn't they all collapse around the same time too (give or take some time to account for varying sizes, density, exposure etc.)?
I would expect to see a classic bell curve where a few would collapse sooner; a few would collapse later, but most would collapse in between.
For comparison, let’s say that 25% of people born in 1970 were dead by 2015 (45 years later). It would be incorrect to use this data to imply that the remaining 75% will die at the same annual rate, taking another 135 years (3 x 45) to all die.
If I’m right, this doesn’t detract from your point, as it simply means the remaining arches will be gone well before 4000AD. If anything, it might make it an even stronger case for a relatively young earth.
Don Batten
Yes, of course; my calculation was only meant as a ball-park figure to give the big picture. However, we have no idea how many of the original arches were robust and how many were fragile, so we cannot know with any certainty the pattern of falling. The proportion of remaining arches that fall each year would increase over time (starting at ~zero% and reaching 100% when the last one falls).
Mitch C.
I visited the park when I was a child, over fifty years ago. I am still intrigued by the significant number of natural arches in the park, that are extremely rare elsewhere in the world.

Canyonlands National Park is located nearby, which contains arches and other fascinating erosional features, such as "Island in the Sky"--a large, towering triangular mesa near the confluence of the Green River and the Colorado River. At the tip of the mesa there is a spectacular view of the plain below which is carved by numerous canyons within canyons within canyons. From this vantage point, it is easy to imagine that this expansive plain was once covered with massive quantities of water flowing downstream where it carved out Glen Canyon and the Grand Canyon. No doubt, this flowing water was also responsible for forming the many arches in Arches NP as well.

In such an arid region, it is difficult to imagine where so much water could come from, aside from the Biblical Flood. The Abative Phase of the Biblical Flood, or ice melt from the Ice Age that occurred subsequent to the Flood provides a ready explanation for these geological phenomena.

Thanks again, CMI, for presenting clear evidence demonstrating the accuracy and reliability of the Biblical account.
Miss Yvonne R.
Stone used for the building of historic structures, deteriorate if not maintained. In countries where there is snow and ice in winter, the rain seeps into the stone and then freezes inside the stone causing the stone to fracture and fall apart. We have observed many stone buildings built in the 1800's collapsing. The arches are in desert areas and do deteriorate in harmony with what caused the desert to be a desert. Photos of cliffs on the seashore have been taken showing the cliff with no arches, later years further photos show the cliff with a cave, then later again an arch. Cliff high rocks on the shore line in Victoria Australia known as The Twelve Apostles were part of the mainland. Now they are twelve distinct standing rocks surrounded by the shore line water. Consider landslides - rocks breaking away from the mountain side. How foolish evolutionists are to try to maintain their theory of millions of years when the evidence in many ways is evident for them to observe.
Don Batten
The rate of attrition of the 'Twelve apostles' also does not compute for the long ages mantra (see the related reading articles). However, at least there is a mechanism for the formation of new ones, whereas in the Arches NP this is not the case, which makes the case for a young age stronger.
Tim L.
In the article, you say, "However, it is quite inconsistent with the claim that the features are millions of years old; just one million years would give about a million collapsed arches, which is 500 times the number of arches still standing." This would seem to be an excellent place to cite an estimate for the number of arches that have fallen so far. It would seem to be a relatively simple thing to count. Just look for a pile of rocks between two pediments that is large enough to spam the gap between the pediments. Am I missing something? Is that harder to do than it seems? Either way, it seems like such a thing should be at least explained since if you could cite how many arches have fallen, you'd strengthen the case that they are young even further.
Don Batten
Thanks for your thoughts. It would be a worthwhile survey to do, but I am not aware of anyone having done this. I live on the other side of the world, so I am not in a position to do it myself (it would take quite some effort with 310 km2 to survey!). The only information I have been able to find is the number of arches that have fallen from 1970 to 2015, and hence the article is based on this information.
Since the area of the park is 310 km2, and with over 2,000 still-standing arches, this computes to about 6.5 arches or more per km2. However, having looked at the park map and various videos, it is clear that the distribution of sandstone outcrops with arches is patchy. So it would seem that it would be highly unlikely that there would be significantly more than 2,000 collapsed arches to find.
The undeniable point is that the figures are orders of magnitude wrong for a long-age view of the arches, but they are easily consistent with a post-Flood period of some 4,500 years.
Andrew H.
It is ironic that biblical creationists are so often depicted as crazies, psychos and worse. I see a rapidly decaying world with features that show that it began this decay quite recently. These arches are but one indication. Even applying Lyell's principle that ' the present is the key to the past' consistently should lead us to conclude we have not been around for long. The decay of our genome points in the same direction. It is clear that this principle was adopted to exclude the genesis flood which God has promised never to repeat. Even Lyell's own application of it to the Niagara Falls shows this tendency. The presence of C14 in diamonds should also alert us. That it does not shows that worldview trumps observation most of the time. I am thankful for the Grace of
God. He was willing to be regarded as 'beside himself' when He came to save His people from their sins.

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