El Puente Natural

Panama's Natural Bridge

Useful Information

Location: Drive to the Panama town of Buenos Aires, turn east and go approximately 9 km. This route is about a 800 m east of the town of Calzada Larga, where an old logging road branches off a right angle turn on the road to the air strip. Park the car and trudge about 2 km on an old logging road.
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: no light
Guided tours:
Bibliography: (1963): The Panama Canal Review, December 1963
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Panama's Natural Bridge, is larger and wider than its namesake in Virginia that attracts thousands of visitors each year. The bridge is the remains of an old limestone cave whose roof, along with the rest of the cave, collapsed, causing the stream to flow in a canyon exactly in the same manner as at the Natural Bridge of Virginia.

The bridge originally was over the Rio Puente, but with formation of man-made Madden Lake following completion of Madden Dam, the natural Bridge now crosses an arm of the lake which is part of Madden Lake when the lake is full.

The Natural Bridge itself is about 250 feet wide and formed in Eocene limestone, with the stream flowing in a slight curve beneath it. Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites are in the cave. On one side is a sort of dome-like flow stone, deposited by flowing ground water. When the lake is high, the top of the bridge is between 40 and 50 feet from the waterline.

Panama's Natural Bridge has been used as a point of interest by Boy Scouts in past years and is a favorite objective for hikes and camping.

Long before the Boy Scouts started coming, the bridge was used as a shelter by Indians, and Pre-Colombian artifacts have been found beneath it which include pots and an old grindstone.

Text by Tony Oldham (2004). With kind permission.