A Bridge to Hope in Afghanistan

March 31, 2011

WCS researchers discover the world’s 12th largest natural bridge in a remote region of Afghanistan. The stone arch serves as a reminder of the war-torn country’s many wonders.

A natural stone arch has stood for millions of years in the highlands of Afghanistan. But it wasn’t until recently that WCS researchers stumbled upon the special structure. Spanning almost 211 feet across its base, the natural bridge now holds the title of the 12th largest of its kind. 

Sorry, Outlaw Arch in Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument, this pushes you to number 13. China’s “Fairy Bridge” takes first prize at 400 feet.

The Hazarchishma Natural Bridge is also nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest large natural bridges in the world. On the northern edge of the Bamyan plateau, two WCS conservationists came upon the bridge late last year. They had been surveying the area, where ibex and urial wild sheep roam, and visiting local communities. The bridge is named after a nearby village.

“It’s one of the most spectacular discoveries ever made in this region,” said Joe Walston, director of WCS-Asia. “The arch is emblematic of the natural marvels that still await discovery in Afghanistan.”

Rock layers from the Jurassic Period—200 to 145 million years ago—and the Eocene Epoch—55 to 34 million years ago—form the Hazarchishma arch. Over thousands of years, water that once flowed through the now dry Jawzari Canyon carved the stone into what it is today.

WCS currently works with more than 55 local communities in Afghanistan to help sustain the natural resources they depend on for improved livelihoods. About 60 miles to the south of the Hazarchishma Natural Bridge lies the country’s first national park, Band-e-Amir, which WCS helped gazette in 2009.

“Afghanistan has taken great strides in initiating programs to preserve the country’s most beautiful wild places as well as conserve its natural resources,” said Peter Zahler, deputy director of WCS-Asia. “This newfound marvel adds to the country’s growing list of natural wonders and economic assets.”

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