Rock Bridge Park offers visitors diverse topography, rich history

by Lindsey Robinson

Today, visitors to Rock Bridge Memorial State Park can take out on foot or horseback with a map and a compass and explore more than 20 miles of trails or make their way through the wooded acreage. Exploring the natural features of the park along the trails, visitors can examine the natural diversity that is surrounded by high bluffs and ‘karst’ limestone topography. But before the park was opened in 1967 to the public, it was privately owned and only a local tragedy made it accessible to the public.

The natural rock bridge was a common gathering place for the settlers who lived in the surrounding area of the park decades before it became state owned. This is where the town of Rock Bridge Mills grew up and made use of the gallons of flowing water Devil’s Icebox Spring produces to start a grist mill and a whiskey distillery in the late 1800s.

The park is home to many unique organisms and geographical features. The Devil’s Icebox Boardwalk takes visitors past and over the rock bridge, to Devil’s Icebox cave, by the park’s sinkhole, and past the natural spring. Connor’s Cave is also another cave habitat that can be explored only during certain seasons because of the winter hibernation of the cave’s bats. The cave system is home to one organism, the pink planarian flatworm, that can be found only in the park habitat.

Created as a safe haven for children to play in and enjoy, the wide diversity of nature and cultural history provide a good reason to get out and explore one of Columbia’s attractions.