Tonto Natural Bridge is believed to be the largest travertine bridge in the world, it is 183 feet in height, 150 feet wide and 390 feet in length. The platform across the bridge is approximately 1050 feet long. The Friends of Tonto at Natural Bridge have as our challenge and our purpose to raise awareness about the plight of the Bridge should the State of Arizona reduce or eliminate public funding. We stand ready and able to raise funds to accomplish our goal if necessary.
Tucked away in a tiny valley surrounded by a forest of pine trees, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park has been in the making for thousands of years. It is believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high over a 400-foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest point.
The discovery of the small and beautiful valley between Pine and Payson was documented in 1877 by David Gowan, a prospector who stumbled across the bridge as he was chased by Apaches. Gowan hid for two nights and three days in one of several caves that dot the inside of the bridge. On the third day, he left the cave to explore the tunnel and green valley surrounding it. Gowan then claimed squatter’s rights.
In 1898 he persuaded his nephew, David Gowan Goodfellow, to bring his family over from Scotland and settle the land permanently. After a week of difficult travel from Flagstaff, the Goodfellows arrived at the edge of the mountain and lowered their possessions down the 500 foot slopes into the valley by ropes and burros.
Today, visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down below to capture the true size and beauty of this geologic wonder.
Our mission is to work to ensure that Tonto Natural Bridge is preserved and enhanced and remains open for current and future generations. Our goal is to raise awareness of the public that this magnificent natural wonder exists and to promote visitation. It is also to enhance the visitor experience and to assist in operations through volunteer efforts.
To provide the essential resources to promote the public’s awareness and increase visitation to this magnificent natural wonder.
- What does the organization hope to achieve through its fund-raising activities?
To raise the public’s awareness about Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and in so doing increase visitation to this magnificent natural work of art.
- Why is it important?
It is important because unless the public knows about Tonto Natural Bridge State Park visitation will never increase and as a result Arizona State Parks will see no reason to keep it open. In times of tight budgets organizations search out those areas that have a negative cash flow and eliminate them, we cannot allow this to happen to Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.
- What can the visitor do to help the cause?
The greatest thing the visitor can do to help the cause is talk to friends, relatives and neighbors and tell them about Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and encourage them to pay it a visit. We also encourage visitors to the “Bridge” to become Friends and join our organization.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park
8 am to 6 pm (with last entry at 5 pm) 7 days a week. Starting September 5, 2011 the park will be open 5 days a week: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, & Mondays. The park is closed on Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving Day the park will close at 2PM. One hour prior to closing the park will be closed to incoming visitors and the trails will be closed to those going below the bridge.
Adults 14 and up is $5, 7-13 years of age it is $2, and those under 7 are free.
Gift shop, hiking trails, Ramada’s, many picnic tables, barbeque stands, open fields for games and parking for a large number of vehicles. There are three sets of very clean porta-poties and hopefully in the near future permanent toilets. Arrangements can be made for weddings and receptions around the lodge. There are four view points above the bridge giving you great views of the bridge and the canyons for those who may not wish to hike below.
There are four separate hiking trails with three that lead to underneath the bridge. The Pine Creek Trail begins at Parking Lot #1 and goes through the Pine Canyon to underneath the bridge and up the Gowan Trail. The Ana Mae Trail begins at View Point #2 and leads down to 100 yards north of the bridge from which you can hike to the bridge and underneath. The Gowan Trail starts at the south end of the bridge and leads below the bridge to a viewing platform. From there you can go under the bridge, out the north end or back up the Gowan Trail. The Water Fall Trail leads 300 feet to beautiful falls that look like something from a tropical area and not Arizona. ALL trails are steep with steps and rocky areas. It is highly recommended that you wear sturdy shoes if you plan to hike to the bottom of the bridge. A map for all trails and the park is given to visitors. It is also highly recommended that each person carry water if they are going to hike any of the trails. Caution! The elevation at the top of the bridge is 4533 ft. If you are coming from a much lower altitude you may encounter altitude sickness if you over exert yourself.
Pets are allowed in the park but not down any of the trails leading into the canyon. This is a state health law we strictly enforce. All pets should be restrained at all times. There are many wild animals within the park boundaries and the most visible can be the Javalina. They do not like dogs and will attack them if they get too close most likely to protect their young. Please do not leave your animals in parked cars during hot weather. During high fire seasons the only use of cooking devices will be propane stoves or the like. There will be no smoking on the trails. There is no wading in the water or swimming underneath the bridge. There is a swimming area south of the bridge near the wooden foot bridge. Please advise all of your party there is no throwing of objects of any kind from above or below the bridge.