Would you take a walk across the highest suspension bridge in the United States, that crosses a gorge 955 feet high above the Arkansas River in Colorado? A bridge that is only 18 feet wide, composed of wooden planks and spans 1,270 feet from one edge of the gorge to the other edge?
(All photos will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)
If so, then welcome to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park located in Canon City, Colorado! The bridge was built in 1929, by Texan Lon P Piper, as a tourist attraction to give visitors a view of the Royal Gorge.
In my last blog post--click here to read--I showed you our visit to nearby Canon City and our ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad that travels below in the gorge along side the Arkansas River. After the train ride we drove to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park to visit this attraction. There is so much we want to see and do in our new state, and visiting the railroad and the bridge was high on our list, so we were happy to have a beautiful day to visit both attractions.
Please click on to enlarge
If you visited this area before June, 2013, you might notice from my photos that many of the attractions that are part of the park look different. That is because there was a devastating wildfire in this area on June 11th, 2013, that destroyed 48 of the park's 52 buildings, plus the aerial tram and the funicular. Fortunately, there was no loss of life and the bridge sustained only slight damage to its wooden deck. The park was rebuilt for a cost of 30 million dollars, and had a grand re-opening in May, 2015. It now has a brand new Visitor's Center, Aerial Gondolas, Water Clock, and a new Cloudscraper Zip Line, which crosses the gorge on the east side of the bridge, the Royal Rush Skycoaster, a new Tommy Knocker Children's Playground, and a new Plaza Theater and Historical Expo.
After we paid our general admission fee --some attractions have an extra fee--at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park's Visitor Center, we took the included gondola ride, that traverses 2,200 feet across the gorge. We planned to walk back to the visitors center by walking across the bridge. The views looking down the gorge from the aerial gondola were astounding!
If you take the gondola ride to the south side of the gorge, you will find the walk to the bridge an easy downhill trek with some beautiful views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in the distance. You also get more views of the deep 1,200 foot gorge.
The bridge and the incline railway were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and underwent extensive renovations between 1980-84 where new cable anchors and suspension rods were installed to stabilize it.
Usually there are no cars allowed to cross the bridge, except for an occasional car club that prearranges a scheduled ride.
My husband and I began our walk across the bridge feeling very safe. It was somewhat windy, but the bridge felt steady and secure.
Please click on to enlargeThere were interesting informational placards along the walls of the bridge to read--click on to enlarge.
We were visiting late in the afternoon, so there were not many people on the bridge, and we were able to take our time to look at all the sights.
We noticed there were small gaps between the wooden planks that line the bridge, and if you looked carefully you could see all the way down to the river below!
We could see the 100 or so new plank boards that had to be replaced after the wildfire. It was miraculous that the bridge survived when 90% of the surrounds burned!
The Royal Gorge Bridge is lined with all the 50 state flags of the United States, and my husband and I took photos of both New York, our original hometown state, and Colorado, our new one!
Our favorite thing to do on the bridge, of course, was looking down at the amazing views! Click on the photos to see them enlarged to see the Arkansas River which begins near Leadville, Colorado and flows eastward all the way to the state of Arkansas and into the Mississippi River.
The river is estimated to cut the gorge lower one foot every 2,500 years.
If you click on this photo collage to enlarge it, you can see an engineering feat for the Royal Gorge Railroad below, called the hanging bridge. In 1878 when the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was building this line they found one portion of the gorge narrows to 30 feet width. The railroad would have to travel over the river at this point and a 175 ft plate girder suspended on one side by "A" frame girders spanning the river and anchored to the rock walls.
There were also other signs to see along the bridge walls. Bungee jumping is no longer allowed
Towards the end of our walk, at the north side of the bridge, we could see the new cables that now anchor the bridge, plus wind cables underneath.
Visitors who traveled across the bridge before this work was completed in 1983 said the bridge would sway in high winds. Now it feels very secure.
A placard explaining how the Gorge earned its "royal" name.
The ruins of the funicular--the incline railroad-- that once brought visitors to a platform at the bottom of the gorge. It was damaged in the 2013 fire and as of now there are no plans to rebuild it.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Royal Gorge bridge and Park and all the sights we saw there. Now we are part of the many millions that can say they walked across the high suspension bridge in the United States!
Before I finish this post, I have to show my youngest grandson's recent 6th birthday party! He wanted to have a "cooking party" and so a young chef came to his house to teach my grandson and his friends how to make ricotta pancakes and a fruit salad, and also how to decorate their cupcakes. The boys really enjoyed eating their creations, and we had one very happy birthday boy!
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