Massive Natural Bridge Discovered in Afghanistan

hazarchishma natural bridge afghanistan photo

The Hazarchishma Natural Bridge. Photo: Ayub Alavi.

Under most circumstances, it would be tough for a natural stone arch more than 200 feet wide and 60 feet high to remain hidden, but the recent discovery of one fitting that description in the remote central highlands of Afghanistan shows just how much remains to be learned about the troubled country's wild places.Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society discovered what is now called the Hazarchishma Natural Bridge while surveying the northern edge of the Bamyan plateau for wildlife such as ibex and urial wild sheep and visiting local communities, the group said in a statement this week.

World's 12th Largest Natural Arch
"It's one of the most spectacular discoveries ever made in this region," said Joe Walston, director of the organization's Asia Program. "The arch is emblematic of the natural marvels that still await discovery in Afghanistan."

At 210.6 feet across its base and more than 60 feet high, the arch -- "carved over millennia by the once-flowing waters of the now dry Jawzari Canyon," WCS said -- is the 12th largest natural bridge in the world, displacing one in Utah, where many such formations are found. The world's largest natural arch measures 400 feet wide and is located in Guangxi, China.

WCS's work in Afghanistan has included helping establish the country's first national park, Band-e-Amir, about 100 kilometers south of the Hazarchishma bridge, producing an inaugural list of protected species, working to limit illegal wildlife trade, and helping local communities conserve wildlife while improving their livelihoods.

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