100th Anniversary Party! Join the fun at Ayres Natural Bridge Park this weekend

boys playing at Ayres Natural Bridge Park

Brothers Ryan and Blake Vialpando have a grand time splashing each other at Ayres Natural Bridge last week under the titular rock formation. The park’s big celebration kicks off Saturday at 8:30 a.m. with bird watching and will continue all day. (Chase Vialpando photo/The Glenrock Independent)

Chase Vialpando, chase@glenrockind.com

Birds’ songs, tweets and caws ring throughout the rocky oasis. Even louder is the laughter of children and their families, as they waft frisbees across vibrant green foliage. Other children dive into the sand at the volleyball pit, screeching loudly with joy.

Several yards away, butterflies flitter around a group of kids as they wade through a cool pool shaded by a unique, bridge-shaped rock formation.

If you’re from around here, you probably recognize this setting as Ayres Natural Bridge park. If you’re not – you’re in for a real treat.

The park is celebrating its 100-year anniversary July 18 and is hosting a slew of festivities, beginning with a group bird watching session at 8:30 a.m. (See the full schedule and additional information in the ad in this edition as well in the flyer included this week.)

“People come (to Natural Bridge) to have fun. They don’t realize there’s 60 species of birds here,” Park Supervisor Dee Mcdonald, who organized the celebration with her husband Doug, said.

At 11 a.m., a botanist will walk folks through the rich foliage of Natural Bridge discussing park botany. A free hot dog lunch, provided by Memorial Hospital of Converse County, will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

At 1 p.m., a biologist will give an overview of some of the park’s numerous wildlife and rich ecosystem. Attendees will be treated to the elaborate history of the park and the surrounding area at 2 p.m.

Mcdonald said the story of the park began in the early 1900s with the freighter Alvah Ayres.

“He heard what he thought was a fanciful story about this bridge, but he wanted to check it out,” she said. “He came here and discovered it was real. He decided he wanted to buy his homestead here.”

In 1919, Alvah’s son Clement donated the land to Converse County to be used as a park “with the stipulation that everything would be free,” she said, and so it has been ever since.

At 3 p.m., a geologist will teach folks about the unique geology of the land.

“The geology is phenomenal. I bet there’s at least 12 types of rocks,” she shared.

The celebratory events will end with a concert at 4 p.m. when bluegrass duo Bettman and Halpin will perform.

Throughout the day,  visitors can also stop by a garage at the park’s entrance to vote for their favorite photo from the Ayres Natural Bridge photo contest.

“I’d like to encourage people that if they have a photo of the bridge they  would like to display or be judged (for the contest), they can bring it,” Mcdonald said.

The official photography judging will take place July 17, and the winner will be decided by a small team of judges. Photos will be judged in three categories:  photos of people, animals and landscape shots taken within the park.

Mcdonald said they’ll still accept contest entries up until the morning of July 17.

The caretaker expects the park to be packed, but they have to limit the number of people at any one time to 250 per the governor’s health orders. 

“We’re going to have a counter, counting people as they come in,” she said emphatically.

The park also is limited by its parking, although they can fit a little more than 80 vehicles.



Glenrock Independent

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