Scenic USA - Colorado

Royal Gorge Bridge

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Royal Gorge Bridge - Canon City, Colorado

Photo by Kevin Kreiman
Inset photos by Bob Goldman

     At a height of 1053 feet, the Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest (over water) Royal Gorge Incline suspension bridge in the world. Here in Canon City, the Arkansas River continues to whittle away at the 10 mile long Royal Gorge Canyon. Made of incredibly tough granite and gneiss, the 1050 foot deep canyon is still no match for the sand laden Arkansas, carrying away a one foot layer of the river bottom about every 2500 years.
     The Ute Indians spent their winters in Royal Gorge for its protection from wind and the comfort of a milder climate. Several other Native American tribes, including the Comanche, Kiowa, Sioux, and Cheyenne, passed through Royal Gorge on their way to meadow regions of the South Park Basin for buffalo hunting expeditions. The first recorded visit by Europeans was Zebulon Pike's expedition of 1806, exploring the frozen Arkansas River on horseback.
     Railroad access was built through the gorge around 1877 after silver Royal Gorge Train and lead were discovered near Leadville. Passenger trains chugged their way through the gorge starting in the 1890s and continued until 1967. A sightseeing tour service is now the only train that travels the tracks through the gorge along the Arkansas River. The bridge was built in 1929, becoming a main feature of the Royal Gorge Park. The attraction also includes the scenic Royal Gorge Route Railroad, Class IV whitewater rafting, the longest single-span aerial tram and the world’s steepest incline railway.

     Currently the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park is making a comeback after a wildfire charred 3200 acres, burned 48 structures, destroyed the incline railway and shuttered the popular tourist attraction for two seasons. The park is now open, offering bridge tours, a zipline, the gondola ride, as well as access to a new visitor center and restaurant.

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