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More Than Just A Bridge

New River Gorge Bridge
A lot of work went into building one of the modern marvels of the Western Hemisphere. (Summit Blog Staff Photo)

You’ve probably heard about the New River Gorge Bridge by now, but why is it so special, you ask? Let’s take a ride and find out.  (And to see how they built the enormous arch, share this with your friends.)

Imagine you’re driving through the scenic hills of West Virginia. Both sides of the road are covered with green walls of forest and there is only occasionally a break through the trees to see farther.

You begin noticing a few signs informing drivers about whitewater recreation and the approaching New River and then, as if your car somehow grew wings, you’re soaring 876 feet above one of the oldest rivers in the world.

Now, instead of forested hills on either side of the road, there is a deep canyon with enormous cliffs and countless climbers. If you stretch your neck far enough, you may even be able to see the river and a few whitewater rafts and kayaks as tiny specks below.

Pretty cool, right?

So You’re Saying It’s Pretty Big?

Locals say it used to take about 45 minutes to travel through the gorge, which meant driving down one side, crossing at the river and traveling up the other side. Now it takes less than 45 seconds to get from one end of the bridge to the other.

So what did it take to make that possible?

When the bridge was finished in 1977 at a price of $37 million, it became the longest steel-arch bridge in the world.  That means 3,030 feet of concrete spanning what many call the “Grand Canyon of the East.”

It took 3 years and 88 million pounds of steel and concrete to build it, which is approximately equal to the weight of 9,000 elephants.  Last time I checked, Dumbo was no lightweight either.

New River Gorge Bridge
Do you think there would be a better view from on top of the bridge or from underneath? (Summit Blog Staff Photo)

Driving across the bridge is pretty cool — and I’m sure you’ll get to when you come to the jamboree in 2013 — but you can also get up-close and personal. Take the Bridge Walk and explore all 3,030 feet — from the catwalk under the platform.

You’ll be harnessed to the bridge so jumping won’t be possible, but don’t worry, that’s what the third weekend in October is for. Every year, BASE jumpers from around the world gather on Bridge Day to enjoy all 876 feet of sky and gravity between the bridge and the New River.

Over 80,000 spectators come each year to watch as people jump, rappel and generally enjoy the engineering marvel that has become a symbol of the state of West Virginia. It even earned a spot on the state’s quarter.

Want to know more about the bridge? Leave us a comment and we’ll dig up an answer for you.

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