Gila County

Tonto Natural Bridge


The Tonto Natural Bridge; the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. It is 183 feet high and the tunnel is 400 feet long and as wide as 150 feet.

The story begins with General George Crook. When he was commanding his men in the 1870’s, they stopped to give their horses water from a small creek. Just upstream, they noticed a large limestone formation. By 1877, Davy Gowan, a Scotsman, stumbled upon the bridge. He was being chased by Apache Indians. He used a small cave inside of the Tonto Natural Bridge to hide in. Three days, later, with the coast clear, he headed out of the bridge and explored the lush valley nearby. It was at this time when Gowan staked a claim for the area surrounding the bridge. By 1898, Davy Gowan convinced his nephew, David Gowan Goodfellow to move from Scotland to live on his land. When they arrived, they lowered their personal belonging down a 500 foot slope into the valley using only burros and ropes. When Goodfellow realized the beauty of this place, he knew he must open a tourist attraction. He built a lodge in 1927 and it still stands today. Also, the fruit trees that were planted by Gowan still stand.

The Tonto Natural Bridge offers different types of trails. The bridge sits in a state park so for more information on it, visit the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park site. For more information on the geological formation of the bridge, click here.

The Tonto Natural Bridge near Payson, Arizona



  1. Trimble, Marshall. Roadside History of Arizona. 2nd edition. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2004. 248-249. Print. 

  2. Tonto Natural Bridge State Park Website