The Cobra, a sandstone rock formation near Fisher Towers, lost its head last week. Officials with the Moab office of the Bureau of Land Management said the 40- to 50-foot tower, notable for its large, flat cap rock that resembled the head of a snake, most likely was struck by lightning during thunderstorms that rolled through southeastern Utah last week.
The Cobra was popular among rock climbers and hikers who visited the Fisher Towers area about 35 miles northwest of Moab.
“We’re assuming it was weather-related, based on the reports,” said Lisa Bryant, assistant field office manager for the BLM’s Moab office. “We believe that between the lightning and thunder and strong winds and heavy rains that it could have been hit [by lightning], causing a steam shot that brought the rock down.”
The Cobra cap rock and a section of the spire that supported it were reduced to rubble sometime between July 29 and Aug. 1, Bryant said.
“We are just so grateful that nobody was [climbing] on it and nobody was hurt,” she said.
Lisa Hathaway, a rock climber who lives in Moab, said that even thought the rock formation was only about 40 feet tall — relatively small compared to other iconic spires in the Fisher Towers area — it was “a very, very popular climb” among locals and visitors to the area.
“It was a blip on the screen, but it was a very accessible, very fun climb,” she said. “It was definitely well-loved. Almost everyone who went climbing out there ended up doing it. And now, those who didn’t are out of luck.”
Hathaway said climbers had marveled for years that the cap rock — the Cobra head — had stayed in place, especially since it was so precariously perched on a narrow, curving spire.
“It would have come as a surprise to no one that it fell,” she said. It’s more surprising that it stayed intact as long as it did. What is surprising is that the bulge or wattle is where it broke off.”
She added that it appears from photos that the head and that section of the base “exploded,” completely destroying the cap rock.
Another iconic rock feature near Moab was also damaged last week, likely by weather. A 12-foot long section of rock flaked off of Tower Arch in Arches National Park on July 29. The piece of rock, which park officials said measured approximately 1-inch in thickness and was 5- to 6-inches in width, weighed about 130 to 135 pounds.
According to news reports, a visitor heard popping and cracking noises before the section of rock fell and reported the incident to park employees.
ByBy Lisa J. Church