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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Natural Bridge - Lookout Mountain, TN

Natural Bridge - Lookout Mountain, TN

People used to be easily entertained. A century ago, before the days of Rock City and Ruby Falls, the Natural Bridge was the thing to see atop Lookout Mountain. Then, people stopped caring about it and over time the place had so much overgrowth that I'm not sure how many people went to see it. Then, over the last five years or so, the locals decided their local geologic treasure should be enjoyed again.

The Bridge is 60 feet long and 15 feet off the ground. If you walk under the bridge, you'll see a mineral spring, which was perhaps the first reason that people came here as early as 1878. One of the first developers of the area was Major McCullough who opened the Natural Bridge Hotel nearby.

A few years after the hotel opened, the bridge became a popular place for Spiritualists, who are the people perform séances, spirit contacts, feats of extrasensory perception or just liked to hang out under a full moon. In 1885, the Southern Spiritualists Association purchased the Natural bridge Hotel and when their popularity grew large, they built an octagon-shaped meeting house here which could hold 500 people. Their popularity wouldn't last and five years later, they disbanded. The Historical Marker at this site is dedicated to the Spiritualists.

As more popular tourist attractions opened up, only the locals continued to visit the small park here, and then the too must have stopped coming. The whole park became full of overgrowth. After I heard of this place in 2004, I attempted a visit. There was this sign of park rules but I couldn't see more than 10 feet down the path. I suspect only the most brave were willing to venture wherever the decrepit path went.

Luckily in 2008, the town of Lookout Mountain wanted to make the park usable again, the first step was to clear-cut out all of the overgrowth. Then, they improved the trail so it was safe to make the short walk to the bottom. Add a few picnic tables, and it was ready for visitors in 2010. The town is continually looking for ways to improve the park and I believe the next phase is landscaping. Now it is once again not a place to be missed. One final note is if you do decide to visit, there is only a small pull-off for a couple of cars, so on a busy day, it might require a bit of a walk.

Natural Bridge (Street View) - Lookout Mountain, TN

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