Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (6): 802-818.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1872-6

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Contrasting characteristics and origin of Danxia arched rock shelters in Zhejiang, China, and natural arches and bridges on the Colorado Plateau, USA

TAN Yufang1,2(), LI Lihui3,4,5,*(), HUANG Beixiu3,4,5   

  1. 1. Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey, Guangzhou 510760, China
    2. Key Laboratory of Marine Mineral Resources, Ministry of Natural Resources, Guangzhou 510760, China
    3. Institute of Geology and Geophysics, CAS, Beijing 100029, China
    4. Innovation Academy for Earth Science, CAS, Beijing 100029, China
    5. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2020-03-31 Accepted:2020-09-11 Published:2021-08-25
  • Contact: LI Lihui;
  • About author:Tan Yufang (1990-), specialized in engineering geology and geohazard. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41372322)


The red beds in Zhejiang province of China host the highest concentration of Danxia arched rock shelters in the world, just as the Colorado Plateau in the western USA hosts the world’s largest concentration of natural arches and bridges. This study investigated the geological background of the arched rock shelters and compared them to the natural arches and bridges, based on field study and a literature review. It was found that Zhejiang arched rock shelters differ from Colorado Plateau natural arches and bridges in geometry and formation mechanism. Statistical geometric data on arch geometry shows that Danxia arched rock shelters in Zhejiang tend to be relatively flat. They are relatively low features with long spans, and great depth. The natural arches and bridges on the Colorado Plateau are similar to each other, but the bridges are larger than the arches. The geometric differences between the arched landforms could be attributed to their different geologic history and to their different formation mechanisms. The arched rock shelters in Zhejiang are formed by differential weathering between sandstone and conglomerate due to moisture-induced tensile stresses. In contrast, natural arches on the Colorado Plateau are closely related to the Salt Valley anticline, vertical tectonic fractures, and horizontal discontinuities in rock fins. The Colorado Plateau natural bridges were formed by river erosion.

Key words: red beds, arched landforms, features and formation mechanism, comparative study