Old Swimming Holes


I received this question via email from someone who is travel to the reservation soon and thought perhaps the answer would be Natural Bridge. Does anyone have another idea?
"Do you remember a swimming hole or pool or spring that was within bicycle riding distance from Fort D? I remember that a friend took us on bikes one day and we went wading in a pool, which was exceptional because most of the arroyos were dry except when it rained. If you had directions on how to find a place like this, I would be grateful if you could let me know."

The arroyo behind the ole Royal Burger had a place where you could swim.

What about Blue Canyon? I remember the Fredenberg kids having a ball at one of the swimming holes. Of course, that little stream is dry now.

I don't know about that one, but if you know about the natural bridge off old black rock road, there was a small pool up the stream from the natural bridge.

Wylie Phelps
WRHS Class of 

Do you think it might be Natural Bridge on the old road behind Black Rock on the way to St. Mikes. That is a bike ride and we use to have class picnics there.

The road to Natural Bridge is closed off by the families living near Natural Bridge, so I was told.

Pat Sutton
WRHS Class of

I remember Natural Bridge on the road between Fort Defiance and St. Mikes. Spend a few times there while skipping school--did I just say that. I think it was spring break. Was there such a thing as spring break a loonnnng time ago?

Loren Tapahe
WRHS Class of 1971

I thought there was water in Blue Canyon at one time. When we lived in Fort in 1954, we lived right across the road from the canyon and my older brothers messed around down there all the time.

Larry Nelson
WRHS Class of 1966

Ever since the dam was built...there has been no water coming from the canyon. (Blue Canyon)

Remembering the past.....

I think I know where this is but to give directions is beyond me, it was off the road between Fort and St. Michaels. Now it's paved and doesn't follow the same route. Seems as though you turned right at the third or fourth hogan and went about 1/4th mile or so. We had a few parties there. I would bet it's the same place.

Ron Hewett
WRHS Class of 1975

I remember walking there for our end of school party one year (Class of 1965). I didn't think we would ever get there. I was wishing I was riding a horse rather than walking. It was great when we got there but we couldn't stay too long as we had to start walking back. Still, it was lots of fun. That would have been when we were in junior high.

For our end of school party in the 5th grade, we walked up into the Canyon and by Kit Carson's Monument.. Is it still called that?

My mom was our teacher..she looked up and the Navajo boys had climbed to the top of the cliff in an instant and my mom (Mrs. Martin) almost had a heart attack. She was yelling, "Come down right now!" And, the boys were saying and waving, "Hello Mrs. Martin! Hello Mrs. Martin!" She never forgot that and laughed every time she told the story. She could see the headlines now, "Arkansas Teacher Fired for End of School Party". Those boys probably included Elmer Francisco, Vernon Cohoe, Benjamin Begay, Wilson Naswood, Eldon McCabe, Freddie Goldtooth and Carl Hillis. I know I have at least a good deal of the names correct!

Nancy Martin Rikel
WRHS Class of 1965

Well, it was a good thing Larry's brothers didn't get swept away by a flash flood as many did back then. I spent a lot of time exploring the wash below the church at Fort (Father Gresham)? Best friends Norman, Eddie, Ernie and I used to play down there.

One day we went up to the trading post and Norman talked me into buying a one cent chili pepper, then we sat under the Statute of Mary by the church and they told me to chew it and eat the whole thing. It was my first taste of a hot chili pepper, and I suffered for hours and hours. My mom eventually put me in a tub of cold water because everywhere on my body that I may have touched, was burning up.

WRHS used to take their end of the year picnics at Natural Bridge. We'd walk there with our teachers. I also spent a pretty nice day there with my boy scout troop. I learned how to cook stew in a coffee can buried under the coals of a fire that we lit with flint and steel. Saw my first den of rattlesnakes up at Natural Bridge too.

I think from WRHS we had to walk down the highway and turn somewhere below Black Rock. But now the memory grows fuzzy. But I do remember walking with Mrs. Matthews and trying to explain to her why a white kid couldn't stay on the res after high school.

Donnie Nelson
WRHS Class of 1961

It was good to hear Donnie's remembrances.

Beth Mays-Villegas
WRHS Class of 1961

WOW! This really brings back memories! Six of us (class of ’68) decided we would ditch school near the end of the school year, and go to Natural Bridge. We hadn’t realized that everyone else had the same idea. By afternoon, there were probably 30 kids there. We had a great time playing around in the sun and the water, listening to the radio, until Charlie Parks wrecked his dad’s brand new car as he hurried out to meet all of us. We were all so afraid of all the trouble we were in, sunburned and tired. I remember instead of being able to participate in Track and Field day, we all had to spend the day with the librarian quietly reading…in the end, it was all worth it!

Sharon Ashcroft Walter
WRHS Class of 1968

The natural bridge is the only place I can recall having pools that never dried up – though they often got a bit stagnant. There was a large, shallower pool just upstream from the bridge and a smaller, deeper pool if you climbed on up a ways. Seemed like it was closer to St. Michaels, off to the left after you leave the hill from there. I couldn’t spot the turnoff the last couple of times I’ve been by there, so visiting is likely discouraged these days.

We had our unauthorized class ditch day there one year (probably sophomore.) It started with me, Terry, Shack, Vicky, Herman, and Sharon, but everybody else showed up by noon. Our punishment (as ringleaders) was detention in the library during “field day.” As it turned out there was a raging sand storm on field day – I remember we didn’t feel too bad about being forced to stay inside.

Bob Eddy
WRHS Class of 1968

Hi All

There are a lot of memories in attending WRHS, I haven't seen a lot of my classmates since graduation May 1967. I know some have gone to Vietnam conflict and did not return. We were all so innocent of the real world then. For us that lived on the Rez it was a culture shock to venture off the Rez to further our education but we survived...Yes happy days at natural bridge end of year or just goofing off was a place to escape..when you think what the kids of now a days are getting into, our experiences were very innocent.

Teresa Arviso-Damon-Wilson.
WRHS Class of

OK, I was one of the 'good' kids who came out at lunch to warm Sharon, Bob, Herman, Shack, et all that everyone knew about their ditch day at Natural Bridge and they were in a lot of trouble - and then I stayed! Charlie Parks was driving Pat Ramsey's beetle, started to slide on the gravel road, hit the breaks and rolled the car. He returned a bent key to Pat. That's when the &%$# hit the fan. The punishment was to stay inside on Track & Field day and we also had to take all our final exams (which if we had an A going in we were exempt). I WAS exempt from all finals, until the little ditch day.

One of the best days of my life!!!!!!!

Chuck McCammon, AKA Arroyo Boy
WRHS Class of 1968


YEAH! I love your stories. Here is mine.

When I was in third grade, a friend invited my older brother and me to go swimming one day in late spring. My mother said we had to do Saturday morning chores – cleaning our room and the rest of the house. We could not go because she did not know where we were going. I don’t remember exactly how, but my brother and I slipped out of the house. We rode our bikes and took our swim suits. I don’t remember who was the friend or where our friend took us. The pool was surrounded by big rocks. We had a great day in the sun, wading and playing.

When we went home at the end of the day, my brother and I were in big, big trouble. Mother was upset and Dad had taken off his belt. I was repentant and accepted my punishment. I could not go outside and play after school. I had to do extra chores everyday like washing and drying the dishes. I had to practice piano for an extra half hour everyday for 2 weeks. My older brother was defiant. He got the belt. It was the only time during my childhood that my father used his belt on any of us kids.

I suppose the major reason that this day stands out in my memory is because of the punishment we received for doing it. But it was more than worth it. It is my most cherished memory of living in Fort Defiance for 2 years during the 2nd and 3rd grade.

Reading your stories only magnifies the significance of my own memory. This place or places appears to be the site of a rite of passage for many of us. It sounds like Natural Bridge is off limits now. I may not ever see this place again. The memory of that wonderful day is not diminished at all, Your stories are more precious than seeing the actual place.

If all goes as planned, I will be visiting Fort Defiance next week. I am sure it will be a bittersweet experience. It has been 51 years since I played in the arroyos and climbed in the canyon.

Thank you, Nancy, as well as everyone else who wrote back. I love your stories. It is really magical how a tiny thread can be weaved into a marvelous patchwork of tales.

Martin Proudfoot
WRHS, 2nd & 3rd grade, 1956-58 (Class of 1967)

I remember a bunch of us going to Natural Bridge at night. The guys were sure there was a "wolfman" there. Never saw anything, but would never do that again! I don't remember whose idea that was...crazy things we used to do.....

Carol McCabe Dahozy
WRHS Class of

Did I imagine it, or was there an impression in the rock on top of natural bridge that looked like a giant footprint?

Sherry Burrow Grigg
WRHS Class of

I haven't been to Natural Bridge since I was in elementary school, I tell my husband about it but was never able to find it again, How do we get there??

Jaclyn Morgan-Jeffries
Class of 1996

Thank you both for your help on finding Natural Bridge. I looked around on the internet and found GPS coordinates at this site: 

As you can see, the place is called Black Rock Natural Bridge by this web site.

I found that Microsoft maps had the best aerial photos. I plugged the coordinates (in decimal notation) into the map with the following result:

35.70861, -109.10389 

My estimation of the location by Robert’s map is found in this collection:!112 

I think I can find Natural Bridge with this information. I was surprised at the detail on the aerial map from Microsoft, which was much better than Google.

In order to use Microsoft maps, I had to register. You may have to as well. This is the first time I have used Microsoft maps, so I hope my links above actually work.

We will certainly try to reach Natural Bridge on our visit. If the road or trail is blocked off, then we will turn back. Otherwise, these maps and my GPS will make it easy to find. Thanks, Bob, the advice to drive north towards Navajo from Fort Defiance. We will do that as well.

We fly to Phoenix early Sunday morning. I’ll let you know how our adventure turns out.

Thanks again. I really appreciate your help.

Martin Proudfoot
WRHS, 2nd & 3rd grade, 1956-58 (Class of 1967).

I hope these directions help a little. From the Lupton entrance or the Ft. Defiance one, its about three miles down Black Rock Road on the west side. There is a row of about four or five tall trees, turn there, then you will come to a Y in the road, The Y to the left will take you there,, The Bad news is there is a fence or a gate put up by the family that lives there. I don't know if you could get permission from them, Or possible walk from that point, I hope they allow you to continue from there,
Good Luck

WRHS Class of 1978

Ok, so we found the location of Natural Bridge. Now, who can find the *&%____ who switched the ignition wires on a 49 flathead ford parked at the road while we hiked in (in '66)! It was a long walk back... I remember traveling on that road with a car full of kids when lightning struck the ground about 25 yards away from us. That is waaay scary!

Tim Worley
WRHS Class of 19

Hey all,
Mr. Seale told me there was a Kit Carson Park in the area, that actually had had a statue of him in it at some point. I don't remember ever seeing that. Does it ring a bell with anybody?

Michael Duchek
WRHS Class of 1985

Helloooo everyone, You allllll need a guide?

Jerry Hoskie
WRHS Class of 1966

A friend of mine told me that natural bridge is gated off by the people that live near the bridge, she also stated that if you were to go to them telling them your purpose, they would probably let you go down there. Just some FYI

Donna Little Class of 78

Hello we all have memories of Natural Bridge. DOT, Lula, Ruth, hung out at this site. Now we should make a special request to this site, since it is closed.

We enjoyed seeing Fort Defiance, Window Rock and Canyon de Chelly, even though we did not make it to Natural Bridge.

We were in Fort Defiance on Monday, March 30. Snow had fallen during the night. When we arrived at the turn off to Natural Bridge, the wind was blowing about 20 to 30 mph and it was cold. The side road was gated not far from the main road. I guessed that it would be ¾ mile or farther to walk in. Since it was going to be a long walk on a cold windy day and we had other places we wanted to see, we moved on. If I try to go to Natural Bridge again, I’ll look for a guide.

We enjoyed seeing the rest of the sights. We drove through old Fort Defiance on Bonito Drive beside the old IHS hospital. We drove up to the ridge on the north side of the old hospital and looked back onto the old part of town. Cottonwood Wash was enchanting. Blue Canyon was beautiful highlighted with light snow. On the following day, we drove to Canyon de Chelly and drove back along the north rim. We reached the north-south highway 12 in Tsaile. The rocks on the east side of Highway 12 were stunning. The natural beauty of the landscape around Fort Defiance is more incredible than I had remembered.

I took some pictures. There are more pictures to be posted of Canyon de Chelly and other areas, and I need to finish the captions, but it may be a long time before I get to it. You can check it out …

Fort Defiance and Window Rock 

Canyon de Chelly 


Thanks to you and everyone else for your information and inspiration. We had a great visit.

Best wishes to all.

Martin Proudfoot
WRHS 2nd & 3rd grade 1956-58 (Class of 1967)