Here’s what happened when our traveling family made an unscheduled stop during a road trip in northern Arkansas. We discovered a big natural 100-foot sandstone bridge formation. What fun we had by taking technology out of our lives and exploring the real world around us. We marveled as we learned the history of this site, especially the part about it being an outlaw’s hideout. This is an attraction for all ages and can be explored in under 30 minutes. Embrace the unexpected!
Arkansas Natural Bridge: Unscheduled Stop at a Natural Wonder
The Natural Bridge located in Clinton, Arkansas is ‘must see’ for families. During a recent road trip through Arkansas to Missouri, my family noticed several signs encouraging travelers to visit the Natural Bridge. Our three girls have come to anticipate our unexpected off-road adventures. Some of their most vivid memories are of events we hadn’t planned but, somehow, made time to include in our itinerary.
The Natural Bridge is a 100-foot sandstone formation in the Ozarks. The bridge was used as a roadway during the pioneer days and then later by loggers. This stone archway is located over Little Johnny Creek.
Our girls, ages three to eight years, easily soaked up the history of this site as they stood smack in the middle of it. I loved stepping back in time with them. They were amazed at how people lived in the past and could readily appreciate how far we have come. Visiting places such as this, untouched by the modern world, is a small gift we can give to our children.
It’s another way to teach them to appreciate the uncommon elements that pop up when least expected, and that we should never be too rigid or scheduled to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the natural creations that surrounds us.
The Adventure Starts Before You Get There
We turned off Highway 65 and headed towards Arkansas’ ‘must-see’ site. The adventure started as we made our way down to the bridge entrance. The winding road and steep inclines set the stage for this hidden gem in the Ozarks. In minutes we transfer from a major highway to what feels like the middle of nowhere in this beautiful scenic area of Arkansas. Our family entered the park through a 140+ year-old cabin. We listened intently to our guide and learned that this tiny one room cabin was home to a large family.
A lively discussion ensued as we took in the different aspects of the cabin and try picturing what that must have been like. Our girls asked lots of questions about how it was possible for that many people to share a small space. Actually, I was thinking the same thing…
As for the Employees…
The employees at the Natural Bridge are very friendly and informative. We appreciated their detailed explanations and knowledge. The admission fee is reasonable. The price for an adult is $5.00 and children under five are FREE. The trail to the bridge is short and easy to walk with small children and elderly family members.
If you’re crunched for time, you could enjoy the whole experience in under thirty minutes, making it the perfect spot to stretch your legs during a road trip. If you’re like our family and love soaking up the beautiful sounds, smells, and uniqueness of new places, just do what we do, sit a while, listen and observe. Sometimes you’ll be amazed by the detail you would have missed if you’d rushed the experience.
A History Lesson
The Natural Bridge was home to the Quapaw Indians. Another exciting fact is that it was used as a hideout for the outlaw Belle Starr – a notorious female outlaw. This tidbit of information caught the attention of my three little explorers. If you are visiting during lunch or early dinner hours, pack a light meal and enjoy the picnic area with the beautiful scenery surrounding you.
Outside the entrance, there is a full covered wagon where our children and other visitors enjoyed having their pictures taken. Once we progressed a little further down the path, we saw how they used to make moonshine. We found a little piece of history in every direction on our visit to the Natural Bridge.
The kids relished the short walk to the bridge. They loved touching the rocks and hearing the wildlife that surrounded them. The park is open March-November. The new blooms of spring or the vibrant colors of fall would make these seasons the best time to visit. There are many gorgeous locations in Arkansas during the autumn months. We visited during the summer and enjoyed taking pictures along the trail with the incredible bridge in the background.
Some other visitors stated that they were amazed at the size of the bridge. Its length and width are impressive. It was fun using our mind’s eye to imagine what it must have looked like as travelers in their covered wagons made their way across it.
History Teaches You And Changes You
As a traveling mom to three young girls, I’m always looking for a way to educate my children during our trips together. To my surprise, the family’s favorite area of the park was the historical cabin filled with antiques. My husband gravitated toward the old farming tools. I took a few minutes to shows our girls some of the items used for cooking and washing clothes back in the 18th and 19th century. We women have come a long way from the days when these antique items were common household utensils.
My husband and I spoke to our children about what their life might have been like if they had lived during that time. We discussed that, because they are all girls, they would have been expected to help me cook, clean, and care for the family. They would not have had the opportunities and career choices that they have now.
Finally, stepping back in time at a location such as this is a great way for parents, especially of daughters, to show the value of the many life opportunities each of them have today. You get the opportunity to take technology out of the picture and focus on the basics of what got us to this point in history.
Once leaving the Natural Bridge, not only did we appreciate having seen this geological wonder, but we all learned some valuable and uncommon history along the way. Visit Family Adventures in Northwest Arkansas for more destination ideas.