December 31, 2011

12/30/11 – Tonto Natural Bridge SP

The drive to this Arizona state park took us across the Mogollon Ridge, a climb to over 7,000’.  The road was clear, but there was still lots of snow in the forest.  The final section of the road went down a 14% grade(!) into Pine Canyon.  Definitely not camping there in the trailer...

The brochure says it’s the largest travertine bridge in the world.  (I didn’t know what travertine was either, so I looked it up in my Kindle dictionary:  it’s rock that’s built up from mineral deposits from water running over it.)  The ranger told us that people used to bring an old hat and drop it in the water—then come back a year later to see the incrustations built up on it.  Check out the top part of this tree--instant fossilization!

We headed to Waterfall Trail, down really steep uneven stairs to a platform by a misty waterfall cave, where moss & lichens are growing on the rocks.  
There's a pretty good view of the north side of the bridge.  I think some of the travertine formations look like cave decorations that just happen to be outside instead of underground. 

There are 2 other viewpoints on the north side of the bridge, one on each side of Pine Creek.  They’re cleverly named Viewpoint #1 and Viewpoint #2.
Then we walked over to Viewpoints #3 and #4, which are practically on top of the bridge.  From there you could see the footbridge across the creek below.   You can also look down through a grid to the bottom of the bridge (there's a rainbow from the waterfall spray).
Gowan Trail takes you down to an Observation Deck where you can see through the tunnel under the bridge, and another waterfall coming over the top.  They won’t let you go down onto the rocks by the creek this time of year because of ice.  No playing in the creek in the summer either—one of the minerals that leech out of the water is arsenic—just wading in the water can make you sick! 
There used to be another trail down until an earthquake fractured some of the rocks holding the stairs in 2004.  Somehow I don't think of Arizona as earthquake country. 

Click here to see more pictures of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

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