Natural Bridge State Park is, of course, named for its primary feature — a natural bridge. My understanding of a bridge versus an arch is that bridges are created mainly by water eroding and eventually wearing through rock. Arches are created primarily by wind. Both are relatively rare in Wisconsin. The bridge at this park is very cool! My visit on March 23 was my first state park hike of the spring.
According to the book “50 Hikes in Wisconsin” by John and Ellen Morgan, the bridge is 25 feet wide and 35 feet tall. (In contrast, Hickman Bridge in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah is 135 feet wide — not for Wisconsin, Natural Bridge is kind of huge.) The Morgans’ book also notes that archeological work at Natural Bridge dates artifacts to 12,000 years ago.
If you only want to hike to the bridge, it’s a pretty fairly short and easy hike from the parking area. The 530 acre park has a loop trail system that includes the “natural bridge” section on the north side of County Highway C as well as a longer section on the south side of the highway. The Department of Natural Resources visitor guide says there are 4 miles of hiking/walking trails. I did the outer loop, without taking the shortcut trail on the south side of the highway.
It’s a nice hike, with a some nice elevation changes. Not mountains, but some ups and downs through the woods. Even in the very early spring, the trail was in good shape, without much mud even in the part through the woods.
This is an unstaffed park, without much development. So, it’s a good place to appreciate the unique arch and a good hike through the woods. There’s a picnic area and a vault toilet, but that’s about it for development. It’s relatively near Devil’s Lake State Park and I have to admit I’ve gone past the sign directing people to this park without ever having visited the park — seems I’ve been on my way to Devil’s Lake and didn’t take time for Natural Bridge.
But, Natural Bridge is a nice little park, probably far less congested than Devil’s Lake (which can get downright crowded on a summer weekend). This park project is working out fairly well since I’m visiting nearby parks that I’ve overlooked in the past!