Tonto Natural Bridge 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. Visitors can hike down to the bottom of the bridge and see through to the other side. Below are photos of the park with the "hole" in the front, the natural bridge. In the photo to the left, the white spot is the lodge, where "A Taste at the Bridge" was held.
George and I aren't big on fundraisers, but this one sounded interesting and for a good cause. Plus there was a special draw. Arizona State Parks have been in trouble the last few years and the one nearest our homebase is no exception. Tonto Natural Bridge is one of the few state parks that makes money but officials still shut it down. Then it went to a few days a week, with Payson and other communities helping to meet payroll. The Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge have been instrumental in keeping it open and returning it to normal operation.
The Taste at the Bridge was a fundraiser but what interested me was the chance to see the second and third floors of the old lodge, the building which now houses the museum and gift shop of the state park on the first floor. The Goodfellow family built the lodge around 1925 to house tourists who were coming to see the natural bridge. Other owners made improvements and it was nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. In 1990, the bridge became Arizona's 26th state park.
The rooms at the lodge were located on the second floor. There are 10 bedrooms, each with a sink and running water. One room has its own bath; the others use the two communal baths. One of those bathrooms still has a claw-footed tub. Several of the rooms were actually a bedroom plus a veranda room. The window could be opened wide for a nice breeze. The two pictured below do have veranda rooms, which you can get a glimpse of.
This bedroom is one of the smaller ones but has a nice cross breeze. Here's one of the bathrooms with the claw-foot tub.
And, on the third floor is a game room and observation room. when we stepped out on the deck, a thunderstorm passed over. The deck view looks toward the road coming into the park.
The fundraiser had food, wine, music, a raffle plus a regular and a silent auction. You could hike down to the bridge with a ranger, if you chose. We enjoyed the evening and hope our volunteer tour guide of the upstairs at the lodge was correct that they will eventually open it to the public again. What a neat place to stay!
This park is a day use park only. RVs must park up at the top right off Highway 87 or at the turnaround a little further down as the road is steep and twisty. You can hike trails around the top or take a switchback trail to the bottom or enjoy a picnic lunch at the top. There is an admission fee; adults 14+ are $5, ages 7-13 are $2 each. The park is open 7 days a week during the summer and 5 days a week after Labor Day. Jaimie Hall Bruzenak
Photos by George Bruzenak