cobra moab utah storm

The Cobra formation in all its former glory.     Photo: Thatcher Clay/Flickr

Beloved Moab Structure Topples

Stood for millions of years

Officials in Moab, Utah, have confirmed that the Cobra, an iconic sandstone formation 10 miles east of Arches National Park, fell from its perch following an intense isolated thunderstorm last week. Characterized by a strikingly top-heavy shape resembling the head and body of a snake, the Cobra was a favorite among hikers and climbers who visit the Special Recreation Management Area around Fisher Towers.

Formed out of Permian Cutler and Triassic Moenkopi sandstones about 245 million years ago, the Cobra and the trails surrounding it have long been sought out for their views of Castle Valley and the Colorado River. Climbers familiar with The Cobra estimate that it was first scaled some time in the early- to mid-1990s, and has since given the “classic” route a difficulty rating of 5.11b.

Reports that the rocks falling from the formation were the result of impact by climbers remain unconfirmed. “We haven’t been out there to investigate, but from our perspective, it’s an act of nature. Erosion happens,” says Lisa Bryant, a public information officer for the Bureau of Land Management. "It’s sad when something like this happens, but we’re very grateful that no one was hurt.”

Lisa Hathaway, a climbing enthusiast based in Moab, echoed theories passed around by other climbers that the top of The Cobra fell when it was struck by lightning. “It had a very loose cap,” she said. “It was almost more miraculous that it lasted as long as it did.”