Alabama is full of scenic views and gorgeous landscapes, regardless of what part of the state you are in, but a small-town wonder in Winston County offers nature lovers an awe-inspiring sight that’s likely more than 2 million years in the making.
Natural Bridge Park is home to a sandstone and iron ore bridge that spans 148 feet and looms more than 60 feet as part of a picturesque bluff. Developed by the Legg family of Jasper, the natural bridge was originally on private property before opening as a 150-acre park in 1954.
Created by erosion over millions of years, the bridge has become an unexpected, off the beaten path site of wonder for all those who see it and wander the caverns beneath it – whether they are nature lovers or simply travelers who happen upon it.
“Some people will just see a sign and come,” said David Denton, whose family has owned Natural Bridge Park since the 1980s. “Others come by recommendation or have been before and then bring their families. People will say, ‘I was here when I was a child and, wow, it is amazing. It is still amazing.’”
Denton said the bridge, which is the longest natural bridge east of the Rocky Mountains, attracts onlookers from close by as well as visitors from all over the world who enjoy a day spent in the great outdoors exploring rock formations, observing wildlife and more.
“All kinds of people come with their stories,” said Denton. “People who just have an appreciation for nature and love the beauty of it. We have had people from Asia, Africa, Europe. We have had people from all over. It is a beautiful sight to walk up under. It is pretty mammoth, and it is just a neat experience.”
While the natural bridge may be its focal point and namesake, it is not the only appeal of the park. Visitors who walk the park’s trail loop, which runs about a mile, will also be able to see gorgeous foliage in the fall, an abundance of wildflowers and more than 27 varieties of ferns during springtime. There is a small waterfall and stream alongside the park’s path, making it a relaxing spot for picnics and birdwatching.
Visitors can view what looks like the profile of a Native American’s face seemingly carved into the stone that makes up the bluff’s surface. While little is known about its origins, Denton said it is another unique piece of Alabama’s history on display at the park.
“My dad was out there during winter when the foliage was off all the trees, and he looks up and has one of those ‘eureka!’ moments,” said Denton. “He was just awestruck. It looks like the face on the buffalo head nickel. Of course, Native Americans made their home here way before us, and it is just a fascinating thing.”
Denton said seeing the natural bridge and the beauty of the park it calls home is something most people who walk its trail, including himself, finding awe-inspiring no matter how many times they have visited.
“I think most people are in awe,” he said. “You make the curve and look up and see this bridge, and then as you get closer the trail goes underneath the bluff and the bridge. It is pretty magnificent to look straight up. You become so small in comparison.”
Natural Bridge Park is open from 8 a.m. until dusk seven days a week, and there are restrooms as well as a gift shop on sight. Admission is $3.50 for adults and $2.50 for children 6 and up.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)