Wild and Wonderful West Virginia: New River Gorge Bridge

After exploring the Sandstone Falls region of New River Gorge NP, we drove north an hour to the Canyon Rim Visitor’s Center.

Offering views of the famed New River Gorge Bridge, the Canyon Rim Visitor Center features interactive exhibits about the New River Gorge’s geologic and human history. Learn about coal mining and ‘The Company Store’; how pollution in New River Gorge was overcome by strong conservation efforts – Canyon Rim is the perfect spot to start your own New River adventure.

The Canyon Rim center has several picture photo overlooks of the gorge, including a short path to see The New River Gorge Bridge photo op.

At 876 feet high,The New River Gorge Bridge is an engineering marvel, reflecting the beauty of the wild nature landscape, while empowering auto-transportation across the the gorge.

Construction on bridge began on the bridge in 1974, and was completed on October 22nd, 1977. The bridge was constructed to solve a transportation problem for locals – prior to the bridge being built travelers had to travel an extra forty minutes to get across the gorge, through winding roads. The bridge cut the vehicle travel time from one side of the gorge to the other from about forty-five minutes to forty-five seconds.

The beauty of the gorge against the striking feat of engineering easily takes your breath away.

Here are some fun facts about what makes the New River Gorge Bridge so spectacular:

  • Longest single arch bridg in the Western Hemisphere
  • 3rd longest single arch bridge in the world
  • 2nd highest vehicle carrying bridge in the US
  • 5th highest vehicle carrying bridge in the world
  • 3rd highest bridge in the US
  • 13th highest bridge in the world
  • Featured on postal stamp and WV State quarter
  • On August 14th, 2013, the bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, because of its exceptional impact on local transportation and engineering signficance.
  • Bridge Day is held every third Saturday in October – thousands of spectactors can walk across the bridge and watch as serious BASE jumpers get their chance to fly 876 feet into the Gorge below and rappellers ascend the and descend the catwalk.
  • You can walk the ‘cat walk’ with a guided tour – New River Gorge Bridge Walk
  • Designed by the Michael Baker Company, under the direction of Chief Engineer Clarence V. Knudsen, and erected by US Steel’s American Bridge Division.
  • The cost to build the bridge was 37 million dollars!
  • The challenge in designing the NRG Bridge was choosing the type of bridge capable of spanning the 3030 foot wide gorge, 876 feet above the New River. After analysis the 1700 foot arch span design suited the surroundings and unique challenges of crossing the gorge.

Unfortunately most of the fall colors in this section of the New River Gorge, had fallen leaving bare trees and a palette of browns and yellows. The bridge blends into the landscape as though it is part of the natural landscape.

You can continue down a longer path (with stairs) for a second viewing deck.

Want a more up close and personal bridge walk – you can schedule a ‘Bridge Walk,’ here.

There is a nice gift shop with ice cream and fudge next door to the Canyon Rim Visitor Center. I enjoyed a taste of fresh made maple fudge.

If you are hungry for lunch after your bridge adventures, I recommend grabbing a bite in nearby Fayetteville. This cool and funky mountain town has tons of restaurants and fun gift shops. As a coffee lover – I recommend The Cathedral Cafe.

Next, we’ll head to The Gauley River Wilderness, just north of The New River Gorge National Park.

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