A Sandy outfitting company took about 100 clients to the arch just west of Moab last fall for thrilling rides on what became known as the world’s largest rope swing. The activity became famous when a video featuring a group of rock climbers rigging a rope and swinging from the arch appeared on YouTube. That video, shot by Provo filmmaker Devin Graham, went viral in 2012.
But the state’s School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration halted the fun in a Jan. 17 letter to the outfitter, Utah High Adventure, declaring the area off-limits to commercially guided outings. The company had charged customers more than $200 each for rope swinging at the arch.
John Andrews, SITLA’s general counsel, said there are two reasons for the decision.
“First, that property is going to be traded to the [Bureau of Land Management],” he said. “BLM had expressed concerns of not wanting to inherit a recreational property where there is a lot of that type of activity.”
The second reason is due to liability and the possibility of a lawsuit against the state if someone got hurt, Andrews said.
He added that SITLA learned about Utah High Adventure’s trips to Corona in early January and acted quickly to discontinue them. While the letter prevents commercially guided rope swingers from jumping off Corona Arch, Andrews acknowledged it does not affect private individuals from seeking thrills on their own.
“People can jump off of anything they wish,” he said.
Utah High Adventure owner Thad James said he plans to ask the BLM for permission to use the arch after the land changes hands.
“Most likely we won’t get it, but we will at least try,” he said.
James emphasized that preservation of the arch’s sandstone was a priority for the company in addition to safety for clients. He said he tried to avoid putting grooves in sandstone, saying there was “less wear and tear” on the arch surface than by people who may have rappelled from it.
The ban is a shame, he said, because Corona Arch is a perfect spot for rope swinging.
“It felt like it was made just for jumping,” he said.
If the BLM turns down his bid at Corona, James said he will try to get permission to offer the same activity on Rainbow Bridge near Lake Powell. That is the world’s largest arch, he said.