Royal Gorge Bridge

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Royal Gorge Bridge
Total length 1,260 ft (380 m)
Width 18 ft (5.5 m)
Longest span 880 ft (270 m)
Clearance below 955 ft (291 m)
Construction end November 1929
Construction cost $350,000
Coordinates 38°27′42″N 105°19′30″W / 38.46167°N 105.325°W / 38.46167; -105.325Coordinates: 38°27′42″N 105°19′30″W / 38.46167°N 105.325°W / 38.46167; -105.325
Royal Gorge Bridge
Royal Gorge Bridge 2010.jpg
Royal Gorge Bridge
Location crosses the Arkansas River in Fremont County, Colorado
Nearest city Cañon City
Area 6.9 acres (2.8 ha)
Architectural style Suspension bridge
Governing body Local
NRHP Reference # 83001303[1]
Added to NRHP September 2, 1983

The Royal Gorge Bridge is a tourist attraction near Cañon City, Colorado, within Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, a 360-acre (150 ha) theme park. The bridge deck crosses the Royal Gorge 955 feet (291 m) above the Arkansas River,[2] and held the record of highest bridge in the world from 1929 until 2001, when it was surpassed by the Liuguanghe Bridge in China. It is a suspension bridge with a main span of 938 feet (286 m). The bridge is 1,260 feet (384 m) long and 18 feet (5.5 m) wide, with a wooden walkway with 1292 planks. The bridge is suspended from towers that are 150 feet (46 m) high. It was formerly among the ten highest bridges in the world and remains the highest in the United States.

Construction and location[edit]

The bridge was constructed in six months, between June 5, 1929, and late November 1929, at a cost of $350,000. To pay for construction, it was built as a toll bridge. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The bridge was not constructed for transportation purposes; instead, it was built with the intent that it serve as a tourist attraction, and has continued to be one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Colorado since its construction. The road is designated as Fremont County Road 3A. The Royal Gorge Route Railroad runs under the bridge along the base of Royal Gorge.

Measuring up[edit]

Sign on the Royal Gorge Bridge showing its height

Measuring from deck to the river below, the Royal Gorge Bridge held the record of highest bridge in the world from 1929 to 2003, with a height of 956 ft. In 2003 it was surpassed by the Beipanjiang River 2003 Bridge with its height of 1,201 ft; however, the Royal Gorge is still the highest bridge in the United States. The cable-stayed Viaduc de Millau, completed in December 2004, is currently the tallest bridge in the world, at 1,118 feet (341 m), measured from the ground to the top of the bridge piers. However, its deck is only 885 feet (270 m) above the River Tarn.[citation needed]


History[edit]

1920s[edit]

The bridge was built in 1929.

1980s[edit]

In 1980, the bridge hosted the television show That's Incredible! for a different kind of jumping. On the show, a group of British bungee jumpers from the Oxford Dangerous Sports Club set, at the time, world records for the highest bungee jump.[citation needed] The record setting jump went 800 feet (240 m) into the 955-foot (291 m) canyon.

In 1981, the bridge was featured in a General Motors (GM) Super Bowl commercial in which several hundred one-gallon gas cans were suspended under the bridge to demonstrate the amount of gas GM's new car would save.

The bridge was closed to vehicle traffic from 1982–83 for significant renovations. During this time, new cable anchors were installed. The original rusting cable ends were replaced by new multi-strand cables and then each of the 2,100 strands of existing suspension cable were spliced together with the new anchor cables. The bridge also got new floor timbers, wind cabling, and improvements to the bridge towers. The cost of the renovations was $2.8 million or about 140% of the original purchase price, accounting for inflation.

2000s[edit]

In October 2003, while performing a proximity demonstration, wingsuiter Dwain Weston was killed attempting to fly over the bridge.[3] Weston was wearing a wingsuit, a skydiving suit with fabric extended below the arms to the body and between the legs to catch air allowing for horizontal travel when skydiving. He was to go over the bridge while fellow skydiver Jeb Corliss was to go under it. Miscalculating his distance from the bridge, Weston struck a railing while traveling an estimated 120 mph, dismembering him and killing him instantly.[4]

Rides and attractions at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park[edit]

June 2013 wildfire[edit]

On June 12, 2013, the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park was devastated by a wildfire. While the bridge suffered only minimal damage (some wooden deck planks burned), all but four of the park's 52 buildings were destroyed.[7] The Incline Railway was severely damaged and the Aerial Tram was destroyed.[8] Park executives announced on June 13 that the bridge will be repaired and the park rebuilt, but there was no timeline for reopening the bridge and/or park.[9]

Attractions lost in fire[edit]

Note- The following 3 lists are compiled as a result of aerial photos: Many of the park's attractions were lost in the fire. They include:

  • Aerial tram
  • Cafés and dining facilities (all)
  • Eagles Nest gift shop (Tram South Station)
  • Fencing near the viewing area and fire station
  • Incline Railway station and cables
  • Main gate
  • Public restrooms (all)
  • Rock shop
  • Tee shirt shop
  • Toy shop
  • Visitors center (tram north station)
  • Water clock
  • Wild West Town

Attractions damaged in fire[edit]

The following are damaged but repairable structures within the park:

  • 30 wooden planks on north end of the otherwise undamaged Bridge (replaced shortly after fire)
  • Bus garage
  • Ice cream shop - was damaged but walls were part of the original stone structures (They remain standing and might be restored according to plans.)
  • Incline Railway rails
  • Security cabin
  • Stall at the wildlife park
  • Sublime point roof (Wall remains intact as it is stone)
  • Water tower

Attractions that are still standing[edit]

Still remaining standing after the fire:

  • Big Horn Lodge
  • Bridge main structure (see above for damage to bridge)
  • Incline Railway Train Car
  • Plaza Theater
  • Royal Rush Skycoaster
  • Silver Rock Railway rails
  • Soaring Eagle Zip Line
  • Wildlife Park and all animals: A new buffalo was born during the fire

2014 park re-opening[edit]

The Royal Gorge Bridge & Park re-opened to the public in a limited capacity on March 15, 2014. It is only open on weekends and offers guided tours on park vehicles through construction sites and over the bridge. No other attractions are known to be operating. The park is expected to fully re-open by August 2014.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ Rappold, R. Scott (March 4, 2010). "Arizona man topples Royal Gorge Bridge's lofty claim". The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO: Freedom Communications). Archived from the original on March 4, 2010. Retrieved March 4, 2010. "(Eric Sakowski) stood on (the bridge) in 2005 and pointed his range finder at the bottom. He was shocked to discover it was 955 feet to the river below, 98 feet less than had been claimed."   "After (learning that), Royal Gorge officials measured the bridge themselves and discovered it is 969 feet to the water."
  3. ^ "Stunt Attempt Proves Fatal for Skydiver". Los Angeles Times. October 6, 2003. Retrieved 2010-08-29. 
  4. ^ Abrams, Michael. "A Sport To Die For". ESPN Internet Ventures. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Zeitschrift Blickpunkt Straßenbahn (Tram Focus Magazine) - Trams of the World 2013
  6. ^ Royal Gorge Silver Rock Railway at The Railroad and Train Pictures Gallery
  7. ^ "Officials talk about moving forward for Royal Gorge Bridge & Park". 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 
  8. ^ "Gorge bridge OK; park engulfed". 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-06-13. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Official: Royal Gorge Bridge damaged by fire but intact". 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2013-06-13. 

External links[edit]