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Natural Bridge

James P. Kaetz, Auburn University
The town of Natural Bridge is located in southwest Winston County in the northwest part of the state, near the natural sandstone feature from which it takes its name. It has a mayor/city council form of government.
Originally called Larissa, then Lodi, Natural Bridge is named after the distinctive sandstone span approximately 140 feet long and 60 feet high located to the west and is a popular tourist attraction. The town grew up along Byler Road, the oldest state-built and maintained road in Alabama. It completed a route between the Warrior River at Northport, Tuscaloosa County, and the Muscle Shoals area on the Tennessee River, in 1822. During the American Civil War, the area surrounding the bridge was meeting point for Alabama Unionists avoiding the Confederate draft and also served as a shelter for Confederate deserters. A post office was established in 1890 while the North Alabama Railroad came through town in 1895, events that further sustained the town.
Natural Bridge flourished from coal mining and timber harvesting and had grown enough by 1914 to warrant incorporation and a telephone system, installed in 1915. It had a population exceeding 300 at one point. The Great Depression caused most of the coal-mining and timber businesses to close, and people began moving away in search of employment. The town charter and government also fell dormant. Natural Bridge reincorporated in 1997 and a new town hall was completed in 2007.
Natural Bridge's population according to the 2010 Census was 37. Of that number, 100.0 percent of respondents identified themselves as white. The town's median household income, according to 2014 estimates, was $90,625, and the per capita income was $24,226.
According to the 2014 Census, the workforce in Natural Bridge was divided among the following industrial categories:
· Educational services, and health care and social assistance (40.0 percent)
· Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (20.0 percent)
· Construction (20.0 percent)
· Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (12.0   percent)
· Manufacturing (8.0 percent)
Students in Natural Bridge attend Winston County schools; no public schools are located within the town limits.
U.S. Highway 278 runs through Natural Bridges running east-west while. State Route 13 runs through town going roughly north-south. Interstate 22 runs east-west just south of the town, connecting Birmingham, Jefferson County and Memphis Tennessee. The Norfolk-Southern Corporation operations a rail line through Natural Bridge.
Events and Places of Interest
Natural Bridge is located just to the west of Bankhead National Forest, which offers boating, camping, hiking, and other outdoor recreational activities. The bridge itself, which is located in the Natural Bridge Park, is the longest sandstone bridge east of the Rocky Mountains. It is a popular tourist destination in Winston County and charges an admission fee. A sign titled the "Free State of Winston," notes that Natural Bridge was meeting place for north Alabama Unionists during the Civil War. The town holds a community Christmas dinner and a New Year's Eve Bluegrass Singing.

Additional Resources

Winston County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Winston County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 1998.
Published:  June 23, 2017   |   Last updated:  June 23, 2017