Tonto Bridge State Park
February 4th, 2001
between Payson and Pine, Arizona
All Photos © 2001 Ting Vogel

Desert Sunset
Car View of Mountains
A Panoramic View
View of a Valley
Javalinas Grazing Near the Ranger Station

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park contains the world's largest natrual travertine bridge, 400 feet long, 150 feet long, and 183 feet high above Pine Creek. It is at an elevation of about 4500 feet from sea level, and though it was in the low 70's on the day of our visit, there was plenty of snow hiding in the tree-shaded areas. The bridge was discovered by a prospector, David Gowan in 1877 while fleeing hostile Apaches.

We checked out the bridge from the four scenic viewpoints at the top. From one viewpoint, we could look across at the stalactites at the top of the bridge, which reminded me of petrified tree roots. Afterwards, we scrambled down the steep Gowan Loop Trail. A rainbow arched across the opening under the bridge. The colors danced in varying intensity as we descend. Water trickling from above created a veil across the opening. Looking back downstream, the water shimmered like a delicate beaded curtain in the bright afternoon sunshine. 

Once we reached the bottom, we began hiking upstream, but a grouchy ranger waiting under the far side of the arch informed us that we were too late to start our trek, and that the trail upstream was closed. Obviously, someone is not psyched to go after stranded hikers in the dark.

Hiking back up, we were closely watched by a group of ravens, but they never let us close enough for a good picture.

With our initial hike plan foiled, we hustled over to the Waterfall Trail to squeeze in more hiking before the park closed. This trail turned out to be steep and extremely short. At the bottom, fern grottoes lined the side of the path and lichen grew abundantly on the rocks. The waterfall was no more than a trickle down the hillside. 

Back up on flat ground, the javelina troop was still grazing in the large meadow below the ranger station. We stalked them a bit, but they wouldn't let us any closer than 20 or 30 feet.

We walked back to our car to find a ranger sitting in his truck at the other end of the parking lot, waiting to shoo us out...we left at 5:04 PM, hope he didn't mind waiting too much.

After leaving the park, we continued North on SR87, climbing another 2000 feet into the mountains before cutting back over to I-17 via the 30-odd miles of SR260 leading to Camp Verde. From Camp Verde, we stayed with the Interstate all the way back to Scottsdale. Along the way, we stopped at a rest stop called Sunset Vista, but it was too dark to see anything.

Hills Above the Park
Tonto Bridge Sign
View of Bridge
Travertine Stalactites Above the Bridge
Looking Upstream
Happy Couple!
Ting Atop the Arch!
Fixing a Hole
Downstream View from Outlook #4
Just a Trickle!
Rainbow Arches Across Opening
Another View of the Valley
Gowan Loop Trailhead
 The Rainbow Colors Vary in Intensity As We Descend
The Best Colors were at the Bottom!
Below the Waterfall
Waterfall in the Sun
Under the Bridge
Looking upstream
Looking Downstream
A Ladder!?
Not Much Water!
Looking Up
Placid Pine Creek
Looking back at the Arch
One Step at a Time!
Waterfall Trailhead
Fern Grottoe
Another Fern Grottoe
Randy next to a Grottoe
Nice Lichen!
Momma Javelina gives Us the Eye!
Ready to Run Away!

The Phoenician