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Cobra rock formation near Moab topples

Published August 6, 2014 7:43 am

Storm • Severe weather might have led to collapse.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It took wind and rain countless years to carve the rock of the twisting Cobra tower near Moab.

It likely took a thunderstorm just moments to topple it late last week.

The Cobra, part of the Fisher Towers formation about 20 miles northeast of Moab, came crashing down, likely in severe weather, Lisa Bryant, assistant field manager at the Bureau of Land Management Moab field office, said Monday.

"We're just extremely grateful no one was hurt," Bryant said.

The hoodoo, which stood roughly 30 to 50 feet high, earned its moniker for its snakelike shape. It appeared as if a cobra were rising out of the redrock desert. Now, it appears as if the snake has been decapitated.

Bryant said officials still were unsure Monday exactly what led to the tower's downfall, but she suspected it had to do with lightning or high winds and rain.

Lisa Hathaway, a Moab climber who has ascended the Cobra multiple times, said it's lucky no one was climbing or hiking near the tower when it fell.

She said it's long been an April Fools' Day tradition in Moab to say that the tenuous formation had collapsed. So when news began to spread online that the tower really had fallen, some people were dubious.

"It was really a surprise to no one that that tower, at least the cap rock, was going to come off at some point in time," Hathaway said.

The Cobra had been a popular climbing spot, she said, because it was accessible and comparatively squat.

"There's just these stupendous, amazing towers looming all around it," Hathaway said, "and it was kind of this little hoodoo that stuck out."

She said most people with a reasonable amount of climbing experience could tackle the rock.

"It will be missed for its iconic photo ops," she said.

Joe Auer, a climber who lives in Castle Valley, visited the remains of the Cobra on Friday.

"Somebody said it had fallen over, and I thought they were just joking around," Auer said. So he took his dog out to the site and, "Lo and behold, it was done."

He said he had climbed the intact tower once.

He doesn't remember much about that climb except his excitement upon returning to the ground.

"It's a really precarious feature," Auer said, "and it's kind of surprising it lasted this long."

Bryant said formations such as the Cobra are carved through erosion. Wind and rain eat away at softer sandstone beneath a harder sandstone cap, creating a tower.

lschencker@sltrib.com

Twitter: @LSchencker