TONTO NATURAL BRIDGE STATE PARK
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.
Many different birds species visit the park. Please ask for a park bird list when paying your fee at the entrance station. Deer, rabbits, and javelina also inhabit the park.
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.
The Tonto Natural Bridge Visitor Center offers information and a gift shop. Note: There are no restrooms located in this building.
Swimming is not allowed under the Natural Bridge. However, you may swim downstream in Pine Creek. Please be advised there is no lifeguard on duty. Swimming is at your own risk.