Offbeat Adventure

This 1920s Bridge Is Still the Highest in the United States

Whether it's parachuting out of planes or BASE jumping off of cliffs, people will go to great lengths to feel the thrill of extreme heights. But what if that thrill is just a leisurely walk? That's whats in store for visitors to Cañon City, Colorado's Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest bridge in the United States.

Come On Get Higher

Picture this: you're walking across a suspension bridge that towers a dizzying 955 feet (291 meters) above the beautiful Arkansas River. On both sides of the bridge are 1,000-foot-tall walls of red granite — this is Royal Gorge, a 10-mile-long canyon carved by millions of years of erosion. You can feel the bridge sway slightly in the wind, and the closer you get to the midpoint, the more you feel like you're standing on air. It's safe to say this is not recommended if you have a fear of heights. But hey, the best way to get over a fear is to face it.

The bridge was built all the way back in 1929 solely to give visitors a better view of the gorge itself. The 1,258-foot (384-meter) long bridge required the stringing of two cables, each made up of 2,100 wire strands, from two massive towers perched at either end of the gorge. The bridge itself was lined with more than 1,000 planks of Oregon fir. Suffice it to say, it was a lofty construction project. It wasn't until the 1980s that engineers steadied the bridge's swaying with the installation of wind cables, although its lack of a vertical truss still makes it wobble more than your average bridge.

'Cause baby there ain't no "bridge" high enough

Over the years, the bridge has changed from a simple footpath to a full amusement park. You can now fly across the canyon on the nation's highest zipline or brace yourself for 50-mile-per-hour free falls on the Royal Rush Rollercoaster. For a gentler view of the surroundings, you could also opt for aerial gondola rides, which offer jaw-dropping views from every direction.

For nearly 75 years, the Royal Gorge bridge took the cake for the highest suspension bridge in the world. However, in 2001 China surpassed it with the opening of the Liuguanghe Bridge, which stood at 975 feet (297 meters) high — a record that would be broken by China several more times before the end of the decade. Still, a bridge's height doesn't always match its glory, and with a skyscraper's length between you and the river below, Royal Gorge Bridge remains a spellbinding spot to visit.

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There are a lot more amazing bridges where this came from. For more, check out "Bridges: A History of the World's Most Spectacular Spans" by Judith Dupre. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

If You're a Thrill-Seeker, You Need to Visit This Place

Written by Annie Hartman July 30, 2018