There is a small town in western Massachusetts named North Adams. It was once a mill town making whatever it was they made. Over time, the mills closed down as the jobs went elsewhere like Honduras or Pakistan or wherever.[i] And the town elders had a situation on their hands, as the town they lived in was dying, poverty was increasing and drugs were on the rise.[ii] They realized that their world was changing and it was wise to change with it. So what do they do? Do they make some deal to bring back the manufacturing jobs. Nope. Not even close. The town elders were smart. Those jobs aren’t coming back. Not Now. Not ever. They are gone. Instead, they lobby the state legislature to build a contemporary art museum. Many people thought the city elders were nuts.[iii] Many people were wrong. These days North Adams is a cool town. It changed with the times, and is now a thriving college town with a tourist industry centered on its own art museum with its upside down trees, its Winnebago filled with flashy knickknacks suspended from a decaying structure, and what could be best described as the world’s largest dildos, among other artistic oddities. Definitely worth the trip. Trust me. And once you are done with the museum, there are all sorts of outdoorsy things in and around North Adams, and the one I wish to focus on is the natural bridge, the only one in New England.
Now I know what you are thinking: that is like one of those huge arches in Utah where a sandstone formation gracefully crossing across the sky like a suspension bridge spanning through space. Not quite. This is a deep narrow gorge which just sorta connects at the top. This gorge has been described as an above ground cave as some feel it resembles a limestone cavern without a roof.[iv] The bedrock is made of marble, which dissolves in slightly acidic water.[v] Massive amounts of water from melting glaciers played a major role in the formation of the natural bridge.[vi]
The marble that forms the bridge was originally made from limestone that was deposited between 541 and 438 million years ago.[vii] Then two mountain building events warped the rock and transformed it from limestone to marble, as well as creating a massive mountain range, most of which has long since eroded away.[viii] The aforementioned glacial melt waters then carved out the 60 foot gorge we see today and bridge associated with it.[ix]
NOTE: I was hoping there would be more on the formation of this unusual little landform, but sadly, there simply isn’t much. So this post is kinda short. Whatever. If you have the chance, check it out, and the Mass Moca Art Museum. Do them both in the same day. It will be well worth the trip.
[i] Actually, I have no idea where they went, but they are no longer in North Adams.
[ii] Oehler, Kay; Sheppard, Stephen; Benjamin, Blair “Mill Town, Factory Town, Cultural Economic Engine: North Adams in Context” pg 11-14 Center for Community Development, Williams College 01MAR2017
[iii] Oehler, Kay; Sheppard, Stephen; Benjamin, Blair “Mill Town, Factory Town, Cultural Economic Engine: North Adams in Context” pg 17-21 Center for Community Development, Williams College 01MAR2017
[iv] Sofia “Hiking To This Aboveground Cave In Massachusetts Will Give You A Surreal Experience” Only In Your State 10MAY2016 http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/massachusetts/aboveground-cave-ma/
[v] Skehan, James “Roadside Geology of Massachusetts” Pg. 329. Mountain Press, 2001. Missoula, Montana.
[vi] Author Unknown “Natural Bridge State Park” The North Adams Chamber of Commerce, North Adams Office of Tourism 2016 http://explorenorthadams.com/item/natural-bridge-state-park/
[vii] Chicoine, C.A. Ed. “History” New England’s Natural Bridge 01MAR2017 https://sites.google.com/site/newenglandsnaturalbridge/history
[viii] Chicoine, C.A. Ed. “History” New England’s Natural Bridge 01MAR2017 https://sites.google.com/site/newenglandsnaturalbridge/history
[ix][ix] Author Unknown “Natural Bridge State Park” The North Adams Chamber of Commerce, North Adams Office of Tourism 2016 http://explorenorthadams.com/item/natural-bridge-state-park/