Arches found everywhere around the Four Corners

Aficionado has documented more than 300 in N.M.

More than 150 natural arches, including Graceful Arch near Aztec, are documented in San Juan County all by one man. Larry Beck, 66, began documenting natural arches more than 30 years ago in the Four Corners region. Enlarge photo

Jenny Kane/Farmington Daily Times

More than 150 natural arches, including Graceful Arch near Aztec, are documented in San Juan County all by one man. Larry Beck, 66, began documenting natural arches more than 30 years ago in the Four Corners region.

GOBERNADOR CANYON, N.M. (AP) – More than 150 natural arches are documented in San Juan County – all by one man.

Larry Beck, 66, began documenting natural arches more than 30 years ago in the Four Corners region.

Now, it’s all he does.

“There’s so much beauty up here, and it’s right in your backyard,” said Beck, who’s helped bring national and worldwide attention to the area’s fragile formations.

Beck discovered his first arch in 1981 outside of Durango, where he used to live. The arch was sandstone and formed during millions of years by erosion, as most in the region are.

While not as large as other arches in the Southwest, Beck realized those in San Juan County were largely underappreciated.

“So many people don’t have a clue,” said Beck.

Beck expects there are many more arches to be documented in San Juan County.

The number of total arches in the state he believes is incalculable, though he has documented more than 300 in New Mexico.

“In every direction you go, there’s arches,” Beck said.

For each arch, he has taken a picture and noted the arch’s location and how to get there, which is information he later posts online.

Many locals have taken advantage of the information, though, as have arch enthusiasts from around the nation and the world.

Beck, president of the Natural Arches and Bridges Society, a global network that supports the interests of both amateur and serious researchers of natural arches and bridges, invited the society in May to see San Juan County’s arches.

Most members traveled cross-country, though several traveled from England and the Netherlands.

“They loved this one,” said Beck of Graceful Arch, outside of Aztec.

Anyone, however, can get to the locations, most of which are easily visible and accessible from the roads used by oil and gas companies.

Beck’s website provides much of the information needed to find documented arches in the San Juan County, including detailed directions and GPS coordinates.

The city of Aztec also provides information about its own arches on its tourism page, a page it created after learning about Beck’s research.

“It was a big inspiration in terms of letting me know how much was out there,” said Aztec Projects Manager Ed Kotik, who learned about Beck’s work and later started doing his own.

Kotik, projects manager for the city, said he was inherently interested in Beck’s ventures because Kotik formerly was an archeologist.

“It’s the thrill of discovery,” said Kotik.

Larry Beck, a part-time resident of Navajo Dam, N.M., shows off one of the arches he has catalogued near Aztec. Enlarge photo

Jenny Kane/The (Farmington) Daily Times

Larry Beck, a part-time resident of Navajo Dam, N.M., shows off one of the arches he has catalogued near Aztec.