November 8, 2014, Strawberry, AZ- Like many new arrivals in the American West, in the mid-19th Century, David Gowan, a native of Scotland, headed to California, to take part in the “Gold Rush”. As the California lodes played themselves out, he headed to Arizona, in the hope of finding more. As mentioned earlier in this series, Payson, where Mr. Gowan ended up, had scant offerings in terms of rich ore. To make matters worse, he was pursued by angry Apaches in the area. He managed to escape northward, and in the process of navigating Pine Canyon, found a natural bridge. There, he hid in a cave for three days.
David found a small, but profitable, lode of gold ore, along the East Verde River, west of the natural bridge, and homesteaded atop the bridge itself. The rich soil allowed him to farm successfully, and the place became a comfortable home for his family, some of whom later turned the farm into a tourist site. The home built by David Goodfellow, Mr. Gowan’s nephew, is still there today, and is the lodge for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.
Here are several photos of the rim and canyon, into which I hiked in the afternoon of this splendid day. The granite and rhyolite made for some slick hiking, especially where Tonto Creek was flowing, and the mist dripping off the natural bridge gave those of us below a refreshing shower, of sorts. First, is the terrain of the canyon rim.
Rhyolite is quite common, throughout the park.
I made my way quickly down a narrow path, to the canyon floor.
A view of the natural bridge was not long in coming. It is recognized as the longest travertine (slick limestone) natural bridge in the world.
Here are a couple of close-ups of the porous granite. In the second frame, you can see an observation deck.
A lovely pool below the bridge, lends a grotto-like effect to the scene.
Boulder-hopping was necessary, in order to explore the length of the canyon bottom. A bit past this area, I found the trail became obscure. A ranger who was there said that the trail was a series of hand and foot holds, which were probably better done on day when there was more time. Seeing that I only had twenty minutes to get back up top, I turned around, and left the rough climb out, for another day.
In the meantime, here are some views of the sky, from underneath Tonto Natural Bridge.
A look downward, as I was climbing out in the late afternoon glow, had its own magic.
Finally, here is a look at the Natural Bridge’s ceiling. Lichen is abundant, in the crevices of the granite.