Tonto Natural Bridge
|Tonto Natural Bridge State Park|
|Location||Gila, Arizona, United States|
|Area||161 acres (65 ha)|
|Elevation||4,530 ft (1,380 m)|
|Governing body||Arizona State Parks|
Tonto Natural Bridge is a natural arch in Arizona, United States, that is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The area surrounding the bridge has been made into a state park called Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, which is located off State Route 87, just 10 miles (16 km) north of Payson. Tonto Natural Bridge stands over a 400-foot-long (120 m) tunnel that measures 150 feet (46 m) at its widest point and reaches a height of 183 feet (56 m).
This natural bridge was first documented by David Gowan, a Scotsman, in 1877 while hiding from Apache tribe members who he stole the land from. Gowan was impressed by the location and persuaded his family to emigrate and live there. Gowan also tried to claim the land for himself under squatter's rights. David Gowan died in January 1926. When deputy sheriff Jim Kline on his regular two week's visit, couldn't locate Gowan at his little cabin, he looked around and secured the help of a posse, which found David's body in Deer Creek. The remains were buried just where they were found beside the creek.
Gowan family members lived near the bridge until 1948. Their lodge building survives to this day and is included in the National Register of Historic Places. In 1948, Glen L. Randall, a native of Pine, Arizona, purchased the Tonto Natural Bridge, the Lodge including 160 acres surrounding the natural wonder with his father Walter Randall and a brother owning a portion of it also. After Randall's death in 1967, his wife Eloise Kleinman Randall sold the property and it eventually was made into a State Park.
- Walking trails
- Pine Creek Trail - approximately 0.5-mile (0.80 km) long
- Waterfall Trail - approximately 600-foot (180 m) round trip to waterfall cave.
- Gowan Trail - approximately 0.5-mile (0.80 km) long, ending at an observation deck in the creek bottom.
- Picnic tables and recreation area
- Gift shop
- Portable restrooms
This section needs to be updated. The reason given is: closure ended after great recession.(August 2019)
It was announced in early 2010 that the park was scheduled to close on June 3, 2010 because of budget cuts and to allow for repairs to the historic lodge. Three groups eventually donated funds to allow the park to stay open until the end of September 2011.
As of 2020, the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is open. The park hours are 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, the last entry is at 4:00 pm. The Park entrance fee is $7.00 for adults, $4.00 for kids between the ages of 7 -13, children 6 and under are free.
- Arizona State Parks. "Tonto Natural Bridge State Park".
- Crossley, John. "Tonto Natural Bridge State Park". AmericanSouthwest.net.
- Coconino Sun, Fri., Jan. 15, 1926, pg. 5
- Coates, Bill (February 27, 2009). "State park closures will turn away visitors and their money". Arizona Capitol Times.
- Arizona State Parks (2009-02-24). "Arizona State Parks Board Temporarily Closes Two State Parks" (Press release). Archived from the original on 2009-11-23.
- Arizona State Parks (2010-08-06). "Tonto Natural Bridge State Park Again Rescued By Rim Country Residents" (Press release).
- "Tonto Natural Bridge State Park in Arizona | USA". azstateparks.com. Retrieved 2020-03-31.