Run For The Bridge

Rim Country residents continue work to preserve park

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Tom Brossart photo

Join the fun and help raise money for Tonto Natural Bridge in the June 19 Run for the Bridge, a poker run organized by the Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge and the folks at the Sidewinder.

Rim Country residents and visitors are invited to join a poker run to raise money to help keep Tonto Natural Bridge operating.

The event is Saturday, June 19 and sponsored by Tony G’s Sidewinders Saloon in Pine. The goal is to help raised the $7,000 needed to keep Tonto Natural Bridge State Park open through September.

Both motorcycles and cars and trucks can participate. The fee is $25 per couple or $15 per person. Participants have the chance to win $300 with the best hand and $150 with the lowest hand. There will also be a 50-50 drawing; raffles; and a silent auction. Entertainment will be by The John Scott Band, starting at 12:30 p.m. at Sidewinders. Sidewinders will have a $6 special on its barbecue pork sandwiches and sides for the participants, with $1 from each lunch donated to the park effort. Other menu items will also be available.

Register between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the Chamber of Commerce in Payson, at the corner of Hwy. 87 and W. Main St. or at Sidewinders Saloon at the corner of Hwy. 87 and Hardscrabble Road in Pine. All proceeds will benefit the Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.

Stops for the run are the Buffalo Bar & Grill, Payson; Long Valley Café; Sportsman Chalet; Happy Jack Lodge; and ending at Sidewinders (see accompanying map).

For more information, call Carol Gianndrea, (480) 216-7620

About Tonto Natural Bridge

The world’s largest natural travertine bridge represents Rim Country’s best-known tourist attraction – but it has also required a tenacious fight to make sure it stays open all summer.

The town of Payson and a band of volunteers who love the soaring, cavernous arch that forms a grotto through which Pine Creek flows, struck a deal with the State Parks Board this year to keep the park open, despite budget woes that have forced the closure of many other state parks.

As a result, the drip castle formations dissolved in the ancient cliff of travertine can continue to draw crowds all summer – many of them from other continents.

The cavernous tunnel has been used as a hiding place by settlers hunted by raiding Apaches, the site of an historic lodge, a summer practice camp for the Payson High School football team and now, finally, a state park that draws nearly 100,000 visitors annually.

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Map courtesy of Bill Ensign

This weekend’s Poker Run for the Bridge will take participants all the way up to Happy Jack as they help raise money to keep Tonto Natural Bridge State Park open and take a chance on winning a $300 prize for the best “hand” and $150 for the “lowest hand”.

The inconspicuous Pine Creek created the 83-feet-high, 400-foot-long tunnel through the cliff face as it chewed through the layers of ancient rock, thanks to the intricate marvel of time and chemistry.

Fascinating geological processes lie behind the formation of the bridge, 150 feet wide at its widest point.

The story of the bridge starts millions of years ago with the deposit of layers of travertine, a porous form of calcite. The layers were buried, cemented, uplifted and then exposed to the water of Pine Creek.

Prospector David Gowan is said to have discovered the natural phenomenon in 1877 when he had to hide in the caverns and caves to escape Apaches.

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