Located about 10 miles from downtown Sonora and seven from Angels Camp, Natural Bridges is a summertime favorite for area residents and tourists alike, and for many good reasons.
People gather at the far side of the lower bridge cave at Natural Bridges in Calaveras County on Thursday. Jesse Jones / Union Democrat, Copyright 2014.
Among them are proximity, a pleasant 2-mile roundtrip hike from the parking area to Coyote Creek, otherworldly limestone caves, and, of course, a chilly slow-moving creek for swimming.
A highlight for many combines the latter two: swimming through a nearly 300-foot-long moss-covered limestone cavern — the “Upper Bridge” at the trail’s end that most people think of when visiting the area.
Hikers quickly streamed in early Thursday afternoon.
A couple from Lodi ate a picnic lunch, a fellow from Modesto caught a frog and a family from Sonora swam through the cave.
Three German tourists made a detour to Natural Bridges on their way from Yosemite National Park to San Francisco after someone in a Jamestown bookstore suggested they check it out.
“We didn’t see a cave in Yosemite, so this is different,” said Tina Dalary, of Munich.
The Natural Bridges area was acquired by the federal government in 1972 from cattle ranchers Tone and Margaret Airola, members of a pioneer Calaveras County family.
The acquisition was part of the New Melones Reservoir project and is now managed by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
For the full story, see the June 20, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.