Scenic USA - West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge

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New River Gorge Bridge - Fayetteville, West Virginia

Photos by John Mueller

     This engineering marvel, totaling 3030 feet in length, crosses West Virginia's New River a few miles from Fayetteville on U.S. Route 19. At one time the bridge was the longest single-arch span in the world. Being displaced by the Lupu Bridge in Shanghai, the New River Gorge Bridge is still the longest single span in the western hemisphere.
     After the bridge was completed in 1977, travel time across the New River Autumn in the New River Gorge - Fayetteville, West Virginia was reduced from 45 minutes to 45 seconds. The bridge crosses one of the oldest rivers in the world, but bears the strange name of New River. The New River Gorge was an ideal location for an arch bridge. Solid rock walls on each side of the canyon became the anchoring points for huge COR-TEN® steel arches. This amazing construction feat moved Cor-Ten steel sections into place along a suspended trolley wire, high overhead above the deep river gorge. Because this special steel the bridge never needs painting, saving the state over a million dollars for each would-be painting contract.
     The marvelous work of art stands 870 feet above the New River, making it ideal for BASE jumpers. Fayette County, West Virginia, sponsors the annual Bridge Day during the third week in October. Closing the bridge to traffic, the bridge becomes both a grandstand and the base for jumpers.
     BASE Jumping, a sport that may appear to border on shear lunacy, BASE Jumper - Bridge Day, Fayetteville, West Virginia tries to side-step this group's foolhardy penchant for jumping from any high structure (Buildings, Antennas, Spans, and Earth) with a mystifying acronym. The first BASE jumpers tested the New River Gorge Bridge in 1979. Now this unique West Virginia celebration has grown into one of the most popular events in the state. The festival includes a concert, Taste of Bridge Day vendors, a poster contest and chili cook-off. Of course, Saturday’s bridge jumping is the main draw, seeing over 1000 jumps in a six hour window. Aside from the BASE jumpers, high liners and rappelling teams also descend and ascend the gorge. After a brief training session, the 700 foot high line ride allows the public to slide down a rope from the bridge’s catwalk to the Fayette Station Road below. If you plan on jumping during this year's funfest you'll need to apply for your permit early. And if last year's attendance is any indication, this October will see crowds nearing 200,000.

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