The park is open. Travel safely as road conditions may be slippery due to snow.


All trails are open!


Latest possible park entry is 4:00 p.m. Anna Mae, Gowan, Pine Creek, and Waterfall Trails close at 4:00 p.m. The paved path and all viewpoints remain open until 5:00 p.m. Exercise caution on the trails; ice may be present in shaded areas. Pets are allowed on the paved path and viewpoints and restricted from all other trails. 


Goodfellow Lodge is not currently available for overnight stays.

Park History

Opened & Dedicated June 29, 1991

By Charles R. Eatherly

People near Pine Creek at Tonto Natural Bridge in 1973Tonto Natural Bridge in 1973

Since its creation in 1957, the State Parks Board made acquisition of the Tonto Natural Bridge a priority project. In July 1967, the Parks Board adopted a revised development program, and the Tonto Natural Bridge was identified as the top priority. A letter was sent to Director Dennis McCarthy on July 31, 1967, advising the agency that Mrs. Randall, Executrix for the Glen Randall estate, had set the selling price for the Tonto Natural Bridge at $500,000. At the November 15, 1967, meeting of the Parks Board, the following motion was adopted unanimously: A motion was made by Member Fireman, seconded by Member Rarick that the Director be authorized to meet with the proper legislative committees (Natural Resources in the Senate and House) with the request that legislation be drafted and introduced for the acquisition of the Tonto Natural Bridge as a State Park, if the Legislature feels that this is an acceptable project. The motion carries unanimously.

On February 13, 1968, Representatives Lyman, Getzwiller, Rosenbaum, Farley, Jones, Shaghnessy and Shelly introduced House Bill 272 (HB 272). The Act authorized the Park and appropriated $250,000 from the State General Fund to the Arizona State Parks Board for the acquisition of the Tonto Natural Bridge. HB 272 passed the Natural Resources and the Game and Fish Committee and was referred to Appropriations and Rules. The Appropriations Committee amended the bill reducing the appropriation to $20,000 for appraisals and planning studies. The Second Regular Session of the Twenty-eighth Legislature adjourned without any further action on HB 272.

At the request of State Parks, the owners agreed to hold the property until after the next Legislative session. The Agency began to look for various other funding options such as the Four Corners Regional Commission and The Nature Conservancy. The acquisition, limited development, and operation of the Tonto Natural Bridge was included in the Agency’s budget request for 1969-1970 Fiscal Year that was filed with the Commissioner of Finance on September 1, 1968. Jack Williams was the Governor at this time.

An overview of Goodfellow Lodge in 1990Tonto Lodge in 1990

On November 7, 1968, the New Starts Committee, a Subcommittee of the State Parks Board, comprised of Chairman A.C. Williams, Duane Miller, and Ralph Burgbacher met at the Tonto Natural Bridge. Director McCarthy and Assistant Director Paul Crandall were also present for the meeting. The group toured the grounds and buildings, viewed the Bridge, and had lunch at the lodge.

In a letter dated November 29, 1968, Director McCarthy advised Representative Stan Turley that the Tonto Natural Bridge is the Parks Board priority project and its acquisition and development had been included as components in the 1969-1970-budget request. The Parks Board would again seek the introduction of legislation to acquire and develop this site as a State Park. As Representative Turley had been named Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, the Director requested that Chairman Turley create within the Committee a sub-committee on State Parks.

In December 1968, Director McCarthy met with representatives of The Nature Conservancy and officials of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (BOR) in San Francisco concerning the negotiations to acquire the Tonto Natural Bridge. The Nature Conservancy was willing to assist, and the Regional Director of the BOR, Frank Sylvester, indicated if the Arizona Outdoor Recreation Coordinating Commission approved this acquisition project, funds from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund would be approved by BOR in fiscal year 1970.

This information was reported to Mrs. Randall and she advised the Director she would wait to see what the Legislature would do. She was enthusiastic about the prospect of its acquisition as a State Park, either through legislative action or through The Nature Conservancy.

Speaker of the House Stan Turley, in a letter dated December 6, 1968, indicated to the Director that the acquisition of the Tonto Natural Bridge was probably one of the most logical projects the Board could place as priority #1 and he would do whatever he could to accomplish this objective. Speaker Turley authorized the Director to have Legislative Council prepare the necessary legislation to acquire Tonto Natural Bridge for introduction at the start of the legislative session.

In January 1969, the acquisition and development of the Tonto Natural Bridge as a State Park was unanimously endorsed by the Arizona Conservation Council, the Governor’s Commission on Arizona Beauty, the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association, and the Arizona Wildlife Federation.

Governor Fife Symington at the park in 1991Governor Fife Symington at the park in 1991


On January 21, 1969, the House Natural Resources Committee agreed to introduce the Tonto Natural Bridge legislation, known as House Bill 65, which would appropriate $175,000 of State funds to be matched by a grant from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Bill was heard and passed by the Natural Resources Committee on January 28, 1969. It passed in the House on March 21, 1969, with a reduced appropriation of only $55,000. The legislature felt that the agency would be able to get the necessary $120,000 through matches from The Nature Conservancy and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

House Bill 65 (Chapter 63) passed the Legislature and was signed by Governor Jack Williams on April 9, 1969. This bill gave the authority to purchase the Tonto Natural Bridge and appropriated only $55,000 to be matched with Land and Water Conservation Funds for a partial payment toward the acquisition of the Tonto Natural Bridge property. The appropriation stood until June 30, 1971.

In May 1969, the Director authorized the initiation of the appraisal by Mr. Burke, an MIA appraiser located in Phoenix. In June 1969, the Agency prepared the Project Proposal to submit to the Arizona Outdoor Recreation Coordinating Commission on July 1, 1969. The appraisal was completed by August 12, 1969, on the Tonto Natural Bridge with a value of $125,000. Mrs. Randall rejected the appraisal and would not pay for another appraisal. By mid-September, the Parks Board had secured another appraisal from Mr. Veldon Naylor, MIA, which set a value of $325,000. The Parks Board approved sending a letter to Mrs. Randall with an offer of $225,000. This offer was also rejected, and the Board was advised that the owners would not accept less than $390,000. The Parks Board considered this request and rejected it. By letter dated November 14, 1969, the Parks Board offered $250,000 to purchase the 160 acres that included the Tonto Natural Bridge.

In March of 1970, the Parks Board learned that the North Star Development Company of Flagstaff had secured an option to purchase the Tonto Natural Bridge. The Parks Board requested Board Member Duane Miller to contact the owners of the North Star Development Company and advise them of the Board’s continued interest in acquiring the Tonto Natural Bridge as a State Park.

In February of 1971, the Director was instructed to send a letter to the principals of North Star Development Company expressing the Board’s continued interest in the Tonto Natural Bridge. The Parks Board held a meeting at the lodge on August 19 and 20, 1971. After considerable discussion on all aspects of the project and proposals, the Board agreed to end its negotiations with the owners of the Tonto Natural Bridge.

Although the Parks Board had publicly ended its negotiation with the owners, through the early 1970’s the Board continued to have staff investigate alternative ways to acquire the Tonto Natural Bridge. These alternatives included authorization to exchange the property for State Trust land outside Gila County, creation of a Revolving Fund in the Governor’s Office and possible condemnation. During the late 1970’s and during the 1980’s, the owners approached the Board on a number of occasions the see if the Board could secure funding. However, a very clouded title further complicated any attempt to pursue acquisition.

In the late 1980’s, the courts determined that the Wolfswinkle family was the legal owner of the Tonto Natural Bridge. The Wolfswinkles renovated the lodge in 1987 to return it to its original condition. In 1989, a member of the Wolfswinkle family called Director Travous to see if there was still interest on the part of the Parks Board in the acquisition of the Tonto Natural Bridge. The opening to pursue the possible acquisition came in January 1990 during a presentation made on the status of State Parks to the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Following the presentation, Senator Leo Corbet stated the Tonto Natural Bridge should be a State Park and wanted to know if there was any possible way to get it into the system. The Committee was very supportive of making this area a State Park, so the agency quickly followed up with meetings with various legislators and budget analysts to develop an acceptable course of action.

Initially, the Senate Natural Resources Committee and the Governor sent letters to each member of the Arizona Congressional Delegation to see if there was any possibility of federal participation in helping acquire the Arizona landmark. Upon learning there would be no federal participation, the Parks staff began to work closely with the legislative leadership to secure a bill to be used as a vehicle to pursue the purchase. Senator Pat Wright, Chairman of Senate Appropriations, asked that one of her bills be used. By March 8, 1990, a “Strike Everything” amendment had been prepared and approved for Senate Bill 1030 (SB 1030). The amendment was introduced and passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 9, 1990. The bill authorized the State Parks Board to acquire, develop and operate the Tonto Natural Bridge as a State Park. It provided an appropriation for the first year of operation and authorized the use of a Certificate of Participation (COP) to acquire the property. It also required the State Park Acquisition and Development Fund (later renamed the Enhancement Fund) to be used to make the annual lease-purchase payments. The bill had additional support from those legislators who would be most directly affected by the addition of a State Park in their area. Those included Senator Bill Hardt, Senator Tony Gabaldon and Representatives Jack Brown, Polly Rosenbaum, Karan English, and John Wettaw (Chairman of House Appropriations). Within two weeks, SB 1030 passed the Senate, the House Appropriations and Rules Committees and was ready for final action by the House.

During this same time, the Joint Committee on Capital Review (JCCR) met and approved the use of lease-purchase to acquire the Tonto Natural Bridge. The House passed the measure and Governor Rose Mofford signed SB 1030 on April 12, 1990, which became Chapter 48 of the laws of that session.

The Purchase Agreement between the State Parks Board and the Tonto Natural Bridge, Inc., was signed on July 19, 1990. The Lease Purchase Agreement was signed on October 1, 1990, and the Tonto Natural Bridge appears as Project Unit No. 3, Docket 813, and page 378 of the recorded documents in Gila County. The Warranty Deed was signed on October 10, 1990, which conveyed the property to the Trustee. An Amended and Restated Lease-Purchase Agreement was completed by Bank One, Arizona, NA, Trustee as Lessor and the State of Arizona, by the Director of the Department of Administration as Lessee on December 1, 1993. This document was filed in Gila County on December 29, 1993, as Fee # 93-641916 with 52 pages. The Tonto Natural Bridge (160 acres) appears as paragraph VIII. Project Unit No. 8 on page A-7 of these recorded documents.

The entrance and interior roads and parking areas were realigned and paved; additional picnic facilities were constructed; an entrance station was installed; and landscape improvements were completed before the Park was opened to the public. The official Grand Opening Celebration was held on June 29, 1991, with a full day of activities. Ken Travous, State Parks Executive Director, served as master of ceremony for the day. He introduced U.S. Senator John McCain, Governor Symington, special guests, Parks Board members, legislators, John Boeck, Park Manager, and park staff. At the Dedication Ceremony held at 6:30 PM, Ken Travous introduced Parks Board Chairman, Ron Pies who again introduced Governor Fife Symington, and together they cut the ribbon to mark the official opening of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

An additional 1.04 acres of land was purchased from the U.S. Forest Service on September 9, 1999. This parcel was needed as a portion of the roadway to the residence area crossed this property.

Early History of the Tonto Natural Bridge Area

Compiled from various documents

The following excerpts are from a report entitled “Tonto Natural Bridge-Proposed National Monument” prepared in 1949 by Earl A. Trager with Hugh M. Miller, Charles A. Richey, Charles N. Gould, Clinton F. Rose, J.H. Tovrea and Vincent W. Vandiver collaborating. Trager, Gould, and Vandiver, government engineers, prepared the geological report.

“Tonto Natural Bridge is located in…the central part of Arizona…. It is in Pine Canyon, a tributary of East Verde River…. The country is mountainous, with deep canyons, towering peaks and precipitous cliffs. The elevation of the bridge in the bottom of Pine Canyon is approximately 4600 feet above sea level.

The outstanding feature that has made this place (The Mogollon Plateau Area) famous is the Tonto Natural Bridge. It is unique among natural bridges in that it is formed of travertine. Most bridges are either in sandstone, as witness Rainbow Bridge and other natural bridges in Utah, or in hard limestone, such as the famous Natural Bridge in Virginia.”

(Quoting Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, entitled “North American Natural Bridges” with a discussion of their origin.)

Not only is the bridge unique in respect to its origin, but also is, moreover, one of the most beautiful bridges in the United States. When the brilliant green of the irrigated, travertine-filled valley above the natural bridge comes into view, its beauty seems unusual…. Beneath the arch of the bridge are several caves of considerable extent, from the roof of which hang stalactites and from the floor of which stalagmites arise.

Darton…found 1150 feet of quartzite…exposed at Natural Bridge with basal conglomerate 300 feet thick….

Two large springs discharge into the valley…. These springs also provide water for the large swimming pool, which has been constructed for the accommodation of the visitors.

These springs have been discharging for a very long time, probably for hundreds of thousands of years. The travertine thus formed has spread out and choked the gorge…. Our attention was called to one deposit along the face of the cliff that has been built out five feet in forty years, or at the rate of 1.5 inches per year.

Height of bridge 183 feet Width of tunnel 150 feet Length of tunnel 393 feet Thickness of travertine above tunnel 60 feet Width of platform across valley on top bridge 1050 feet Length of platform, upstream 1320 feet Average thickness of travertine deposit 150 feet Number of cubic feet of travertine 200,000,000

There are within the tunnel 5 pools of clear water, one of which is said to be 40 feet deep. The present trail through the tunnel is practically unimproved, except that ladders have been built on the steeper cliffs. At one place in the tunnel there are 4 ladders, with 60 rungs. At many places, there is a constant dripping of water from the roof. Stalactites are forming from above and stalagmites on the floor.

From the standpoint of geology, we consider that Tonto Bridge is of national monument caliber and recommend its favorable consideration. The chief item which has influenced our decision are:

1. The Natural Bridge is unique, and so far as is known, there is no other occurrence comparable to it in North America. 2. In addition to the uniqueness of its composition being of travertine, its size compares favorably with the Natural Bridges in southern Utah. 3. The natural setting of the bridge in the valley of Pine Creek just south of the Mogollon Rim is fascinating. 4. It is believed that a most interesting and comprehensive geological story of the formation of the Natural Bridge and the surrounding area could easily be developed for the visitor. 5. The Bridge is located in an area of scenic beauty. Its addition to the Service will provide a splendid one-day trip for trans-continental travelers who may detour from Winslow to Tonto Bridge, thence to Montezuma Well and return to the highway at Flagstaff, Arizona, via Oak Creek Canyon. 6. The entire valley is teeming with birds. The bandtail pigeon is common. Both coniferous and deciduous trees abound.

(Numerous mammals abound in the area. It is the only natural location where both pine trees and cacti grow next to each other.)

Comparison of Virginia’s Famous Natural Bridge with Arizona’s Natural Bridge of Arizona Natural Bridge of Virginia Length of Tunnel 393 feet Length of Tunnel 90 feet Width of Tunnel 150 feet Width of Tunnel 60 feet Height of Bridge 183 feet Height of Bridge 215 feet Cu. ft. of Rock 200,000,000 Cu. Ft. of Rock 450,000

History-From State Park Reports

Archeological evidence shows that indigenous peoples have been using Tonto Natural Bridge State Park and the surrounding region for the past 11,000 years. The region was probably little used by Paleoindians and Hunter gatherers with the only evidence being a few projectile points and pre-ceramic style artifacts. Usage of the region became more frequent after 3000 BCE, when numerous archeological sites appear in the archeological record. Most archeological remains in the park and surrounding area date between 1000-1400 CE, containing Sinaguan and Hohokam influences, but the exact identity of these early peoples remains contested.  For reasons unknown, these peoples vacated the area around 1400-1500 CE. 

Approximately 500 years ago, the Tonto Apache entered the region below the Mogollon rim and used Pine Creek Valley, including the flat terrace above the natural bridge, as a seasonal encampment. They planted maize and hunted local game. 

The first known white men to see the natural bridge was Company E of the United States Army volunteers from Fort Lincoln (now known as Fort Verde) in 1866 led by famous mountain man Pauline Weaver. The company discovered the bridge, and forcefully removed the camp of Tonto Apaches occupying it. 

Following the expulsion of the Tonto Apache from the bridge, it remained unoccupied for nearly a decade. In 1874 David Douglas Gowan, a Scottish gold prospector and mountain man, entered the Arizona Territory from California. Local legend says Gowan “discovered” the bridge in 1877, fleeing from vengeful Apaches while prospecting for gold in Pine Creek. Gowan dodged his way through Pine Canyon to the natural bridge. There he narrowly escaped death by hiding under the bridge for three days. 

The above legend has never been collaborated in writing. An alternative version of events is recalled by prospector, I.M. House, who wrote in 1921; “I.M. House, L.W. Snow, and Wm. Nelson, while prospecting, came to the bridge in 1880. Snow came back with Dave Gowan. Snow had no interest in the bridge and Gowan filed a claim…and built a cabin on the bridge.” Regardless of how he found it, Gowan did indeed homestead the 160 surrounding acres in 1882, planting a small orchard, constructing a dwelling out of mud & timber, and cultivating a small garden. 

Gowan hiked to Payson when he needed supplies and although he spent a great deal of time working his mine on the East Verde River, he would often return to the natural bridge. During this time, Gowan met other settlers in the area and the story of his “discovery” of the natural bridge began to spread throughout the Arizona Territory. 

By the mid-1890s, visitors to the natural bridge were becoming more frequent. In 1896 a nationally published article by Charles F. Lumis in St. Nicholas magazine wrote; “The Natural Bridge of Pine Creek, Arizona is to the world’s natural bridges what the Grand Canyon of the Colorado is to the world of chasms- The greatest, the grandest, the most bewildering…” he also noted that Dave Gowan would guide visitors through the natural caves and tunnels below.

At about the same time, an English journalist traveling through Phoenix, heard the tale of the natural bridge discovery by David Gowan and when he returned to England, wrote a newspaper article about it in the local paper. David Gowan’s nephew David Gowan Goodfellow read the article and upon seeing the name of David Gowan, was reminded of a family story. Goodfellow’s uncle and godfather, David Gowan, had left Scotland to seek his fortune in other parts of the world. 

Believing that this prospector could be his uncle, David Goodfellow wrote a letter addressed to David Gowan, Flagstaff, Arizona Territory, United States of America. The letter miraculously reached David Gowan. Although Gowan was extremely fond of the natural bridge property, he wished to resume his nomadic lifestyle of exploring and prospecting. Gowan wrote back to Goodfellow and offered him the site on the condition that he and his family immigrate to America and permanently settle the land. 

In 1898, David and Lilias Goodfellow and their three children; David Jr. age 9: Henry, 7; and Lillias, 5, embarked on the long journey to Pine Creek Valley. David Goodfellow sold his tailoring business in Durham, boarded a ship for New York City and traveled to Flagstaff, Arizona Territory by train. David Gowan hired a freight hauler from Payson and met the Goodfellows at the train station in Flagstaff. The Goodfellows loaded their belongings into a wagon pulled by a team of horses and arrived at their new home six days later. Mrs. Goodfellow, at her golden wedding anniversary in 1933 wrote, “I fervently wished that I had never come to Arizona. I honestly believed that I could never reach the cabin alive if I ever started down over the precipice; and I was sure if I ever did get there, I would never be able to climb out again.” There was no road down to the valley floor, only a steep, narrow three-mile long trail. Gowan and the Goodfellows lowered the family’s belongings 500 feet down into the canyon by ropes and pack burros and the Goodfellows began to settle into their new home. A few years later, the Goodfellows built a ranch house to replace the original homestead built by David Gowan. David Gowan died in 1926 and was buried in the Mazatzal Wilderness Area along Deer Creek Trail. 

Arizona caught the imagination of Easterners drawn by tales of the Grand Canyon and the Natural Bridge. Camping along the Mogollon Rim in tents and cabins soon became popular for both travelers and Arizona residents, especially Phoenicians, who sought relief during the desert summers. Other visitors, unequipped for camping, took to stopping over at the ranches in the region, first as guests, then later as paying guests, planting the roots for later “dude ranches.” So, between 1901 and 1908, the Goodfellows joined the ranks of Arizona guest ranches, building a road at a cost of $4,000, allowing easier access to the site. The road was carved out of the valley’s east wall using picks, shovels and wheelbarrows. The venture prospered by the scenic attraction of the Bridge. By 1912 Lillias Goodfellow added her voice to others who believed that the Natural Bridge should become a National Park or Monument. While the Grand Canyon won that distinction in 1916, the unique travertine bridge never did. 

Undeterred, the Goodfellows continued to enterprisingly improve the site, first by constructing six small guest cabins, then by building a modern new 10 room lodge with running water in 1925-1926 and improving access to the caves beneath the bridge. In 1928, Andrew Ogilvie, a Goodfellow relative, built the 125 foot long, spring fed swimming pool with a team of horses, a scraper, and hand tools. The lodge was constructed for 36 people by as many as 60 were registered at one time. Many social events were catered by the Goodfellows including, weddings, receptions, dances, dinners and meetings, a tradition that continues today.

In 1933, the Goodfellows celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary; David was 73 and Lillias, 69. Lillias and David continued promoting their privately owned natural wonder until their deaths in 1936 and 1938, respectively. In 1948, their sons sold the business to the Glen Randall family. Glen Randall was born in Pine and visited Tonto Natural Bridge during his childhood. The Goodfellows approached Mr. Randall when he returned from receiving his law degree at George Washington University, concerning the possibility of Tonto Natural Bridge becoming a National Park. Having no success with officials concerning National Park status, Glen Randall asked the Goodfellows if they would consider selling their property to him. Glen L. Randall, W.J. Randall (Glen’s father) and cousin Bert A. Randall purchased the property from the Goodfellows. 

Glen managed the property and made improvements on the entrance road, trails, lodge, pool, and water system. Randall, his wife Eloise, their five daughters and son lived at the park for 21 years. Glen Randall died on March 5, 1967 and the property was then leased to Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Byers. In 1968, North Star Development of Flagstaff, Arizona acquired the property. 

As long distance travel became more practical, fewer guests patronized the lodge and business diminished. The parcel changed hands several times during the ‘70s and ‘80s in a series of complex partnership and lien related transactions, until in 1985, the Wolfswinkle family gained title. Wolfswinkle had first visited the natural bridge in 1958 with his family and immediately fell in love with it. He worked for fourteen years to gain ownership of the property that mixed one of Arizona’s most beautiful natural wonders with a historic landmark. 

Under the management of Wolfswinkle’s Southwest Properties, it once again became a well known tourist attraction. In 1986, following a six-figure refurbishment by Wolfswinkle, the Tonto Natural Bridge Lodge was nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant contributor to the development of tourism in Arizona. 

On October 12, 1990, Tonto Natural Bridge became Arizona’s twenty-sixth state park. Today, visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down below to capture the true size and beauty of this geologic wonder.

Back to top