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10 Facts About Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Cheyenne Reed

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The Tonto Natural Bridge is an amazing travertine bridge 10 miles north of Payson, Arizona. This interesting natural place will blow your mind once you see its power and beauty. So, if you’re looking for adventure and don’t want to travel too far from Phoenix, this is the place for you. If you’re still unconvinced, these 10 facts will make you want to come for a visit.

1) Tonto Natural Bridge is the Largest Natural Travertine Bridge

Distant shot of the Tonto Natural Bridge. Green and yellow trees grow along the bridge. perksandgrumps.com
perksandgrumps.com

Travertine forms when water oozes through limestone and picks up lime particles along the way. Then they are redeposited in a different spot later when the water evaporates. Layers and layers of this lime formed, with organic materials mixed in, eventually resulting in a huge bridge!

2) The Bridge May Have Been 1,000 Feet Long, Way Back in the Day

The Tonto Natural Bridge with water pouring from the top.
jesserodriguez.net
jesserodriguez.net

Today, it’s about 400 feet long, 150 feet wide, and 180 feet tall, which is still pretty impressive! Natural corrosion over time has caused it to shrink. This corrosion has also been caused by tourism, which has led to stricter restrictions.

3) Tonto Natural Bridge Took Thousands of Years to Form!

traveltoarizona.com
traveltoarizona.com

Millions of years of fire, lava, ice, earthquakes, as well as volcanoes resulted in the beautiful Arizona landscape we enjoy today.

4) David Gowan Discovered it in 1877 and Declared Squatter’s Rights

upload.wikimedia.org
upload.wikimedia.org

Gowan was chased by some Apache Natives while prospecting and hid for several days inside one of the caves on the inside of the bridge.

5) The Gowan Family Came Over From Scotland to Settle the Area

Interior shot under the Tonto Natural Bridge.
Flickr User Rolando Vargas
Flickr User Rolando Vargas

This trip was hardly a short one, and when the family arrived, they had to use only rope and donkeys to transport themselves and their belongings down the treacherous slopes. The surrounding landscape was absolutely nothing like anything back home.

6) If You Visit, You Can View the Bridge From the Top

Looking up through the Natural Bridge.
Flickr User Anthony Restar
Flickr User Anthony Restar

They’ve got four parking lot viewpoints! But you definitely also want to take in the sights from down below where you can see the water hole close up. You’ll feel like you’re in a desert dreamland.

7) Or You Can Hike Down to the Bottom!

Flickr User USpecks_Photography
Flickr User USpecks_Photography

From there, you can really appreciate the size of the bridge. Not to mention, you’re up close and personal with all of that geological history! At one point, you could swim in the cool water and spend your day in the shade. However, nowadays this is completely prohibited.

8) Tonto Natural Bridge State Park Has Won Multiple Awards!

Flickr User Victor Kevo
Flickr User Victor Kevo

The Tonto Natural Bridge State Parks has been named “Best of Rim Country,” “Best Historic Site,” “Best Place to Hike,” and “Best Day Trip.” How could you possibly go wrong with all that praise? Well, you couldn’t. These claims are all very true.

9) The Park is Home to a Variety of Plants and Wildlife

Flickr User Steven Willard
Flickr User Steven Willard

The Tonto Natural Bridge has everything from Oak trees and cacti, to bobcats, Black Bears, as well as five species of bats. The diversity of the flora and fauna has a lot to do with the natural resource of water located there.

10) The Natural Bridge Isn’t the Parks Only Attraction

The hole of the Tonto Natural Bridge from ground level. Water is frozen in time as large drops descending from above.
Flickr User Anthony Restar
Flickr User Anthony Restar

You’ll find campgrounds, picnic tables, grills, the Gowan family’s restored lodge, and a gift shop all in the area. However, there are also many great hiking trails nearby. You could also easily spend a full weekend at the Tonto Natural Bridge, exploring the entire area.


The next time you’re looking for somewhere beautiful and interesting to explore in Arizona, you gotta add the Tonto Natural Bridge to your list. You won’t be disappointed in all that it has to offer.

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