Outfitter halted from using arch as largest rope swing

MOAB, Utah – Citing liability concerns, state officials have barred an outfitter from using a southern Utah arch for what’s billed as the world’s largest rope swing.

The School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, last month informed Sandy-based Utah High Adventure that it could no longer take paying clients to Corona Arch just west of Moab.

SITLA general counsel John Andrews told The Salt Lake Tribune that while the arch is now closed to commercially guided outdoor activities, it remains open to private parties interested in swinging, climbing and rappelling.

“If people want to huck themselves off a cliff or arch that’s their business,” he said. “There is a general principle that owners who hold their land open for recreational use are insulated from liability. We felt there was more risk (exposure to the state penalties) if someone operated under a permit and someone got hurt.”

Last year, Corona Arch became the site of “the granddaddy of all cheap thrills” after climbers set up a rope with a 250-foot pendulum swing through the geological feature. It was made famous by YouTube videos that went viral.

Thrill seekers free fall for 130 feet before the rope becomes taut, swinging them just above the sandstone floor before soaring skyward through the arch. They fly up to 200 feet above the ground, and enjoy six or seven swings before being lowered to the ground.

“It’s a bummer they closed it, but I can understand where they are coming from,” Thad James, owner of Utah High Adventure, told the Tribune. “If you don’t do it exactly right, you can die.”

He said he’s concerned amateur jumpers, drawn to the arch because of its newfound notoriety, may put themselves at risk.

Anchors for the ropes must be set just right or jumpers risk swinging into the far leg of the arch or back into the cliff. And rope lengths need to be calibrated to safely navigate the 140-foot height of the arch.

There were no mishaps during the four months SITLA allowed James’ company to access the arch. About 100 clients paid $200 each to swing under the arch during that time.