Bridge Lodge Provides Spooky Stay

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Visitors to the Tonto Natural Bridge can see a small part of the historic old lodge where the gift shop is located. Those who have spent the night there often report seeing or at least hearing something else.

Completed in 1925, the four-story structure features 10 bedrooms, a spacious dining hall, and a fourth-story observation room.

Chris Nez and his six-member crew are living in the lodge during their three-week stint building a new trail down to the bridge. While they're not sure that what they hear at odd hours of the night are ghosts or "just the feeling of an old building," they endure the bumps and rattles with a sense of humor.

"We joke around with each other about it," Nez said. "But when something wakes you up in the middle of the night, you just keep saying to yourself, 'Go back to sleep. Go back to sleep.'"

At least one noise Nez was able to account for. "One night I kept waking up and saying, 'What's that noise,'" he said. "Finally I realized it was just a low battery in one of the smoke alarms."

But the spookiest thing about the old lodge, Nez said, is an old black and white photo of Dave Gowan's mother.

"There's this picture of this old lady in the dining room, and when you walk back and forth her eyes follow you," Nez said. "It freaks you out. It's so creepy, I don't even look at it any more."

Park Manager John Boeck, who also has stayed in the lodge, has had the same experience with the photo of Gowan's mother. "I didn't tell Chris about it," Boeck said. "He discovered it all by himself."

But whether it's haunted or not, Nez has thoroughly enjoyed his stay there. "It's a fun building," he said. "You can feel the history in that building."

Bridge facts

Over 100,000 people visit the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park every year. Located off Highway 260 about halfway between Payson and Pine, the park is home to the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. This geological wonder was discovered by David Gowan in 1877, a prospector who stumbled upon it while being chased by Apaches. Visitors can stand on top of the bridge or hike down to it on several trails. Winter hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through March, and the entrance fee is $5 per car.

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