Skip to main content

Exploring New River Gorge and its landmark Bridge

 


Recently on Gribblenation, we helped break the news that the New River National River and its surrounding lands are to be designated as a National Park & Preserve. Given this exciting news, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this same area that I had the fortune of exploring for the first time back in July 2020 and show you some of my favorite locations and amenities encountered along the way.

For an engineer like me, the centerpiece landmark of the New River region is the New River Gorge Bridge, a massive steel arch bridge located along US Route 19 near Fayetteville, WV. The bridge was completed in 1977 as the world’s largest bridge of its type, a title it held for 25 years after its completion. It is additionally the centerpiece link in ADHS Corridor L, connecting Interstates 64/77 in Beckley with Interstate 79 near Sutton, and it remains among the great engineering achievements of the 20th Century for both West Virginia and America in general. The bridge’s birthday is celebrated by the locals with the annual “Bridge Day” celebration held on the third Saturday of October. The event attracts folks nationwide and is known for its live demonstrations of rappelling, ascending, and BASE jumping. The eastern bridge landing area is home to a visitor center and a popular overlook point (the location where the picture above was taken). If you’re feeling a bit daring and are unable to attend the “Bridge Day” festivities, you can also sign up for the “Bridge Walk” experience, offered by the private “Bridge Walk, LLC” company. The Bridge Walk gives visitors the opportunity to walk the length of the bridge’s maintenance catwalk beneath the roadway, over 800 feet above the canyon floor. 


Above: Views of the Bridge from various overlook points along the narrow, winding Fayette Station Road. The bridge's steel arch spans 1,700 ft and its roadway stands 876 ft above the canyon floor, making it among the tallest bridges in the United States.

For a bit of a change of pace, drivers can also navigate their way along the Old Road across New River Gorge. Signed today as Fayette Station Road and Fayette County Route 82, the old road is a single lane wide (open to traffic in the south/westbound direction) and navigates the steep slopes of the gorge with the help of tight hairpin turns and switchbacks. At the bottom of the gorge, the old road crosses the New River on a single-lane truss bridge known as the Fayette Station Bridge. The bridge was built in 1889 and then closed upon completion of the New River Gorge Bridge in 1977. After 20 years of abandonment, the bridge and Fayette Station Road were reopened to small vehicle traffic in 1997 and this bridge at the bottom of the gorge offers a spectacular view of the newer arch bridge as it soars over 800 feet above.

Above: A few images of the Fayette Station Road as it winds its way through New River Gorge, including the Fayette Station Bridge at the bottom of the canyon.

The above photos come from my "Bridge Walk" trip as we walked the length of the maintenance catwalk beneath the roadway. In spite of the heights we were at, the walk is extremely safe - walkers wear lanyards that tie off to an overhead tag line to prevent falls. The catwalk itself also has waist-high railings on it so folks won't fall off the edges. It's one of the safer catwalks I've had the pleasure of strolling as an engineer, but the heights we deal with at this particular location are enough to frighten even the most skilled thrill-seekers.

It’s not just all about roads and bridges when you’re here - there are other non-road related locations folks can check out while they’re in the area. In July 2020, the above-mentioned Visitor Center was closed due to COVID-19, so I sought out other alternative ways to take advantage of what the area has to offer. One of my favorite activities during this visit was to hike the Long Point Trail, which is a 2.9 mile out & back from a trailhead located just south of Fayetteville village. It’s a fairly stress-free hike that takes about 90 minutes round-trip at a brisk pace and the views at the overlook at trail’s end are some of the finest in the entire New River region, spectacular even. It’s one of those simple ways to do something outdoors while still maintaining social distance in the era of COVID-19, while also taking in the man-made & natural scenery & beauty of New River.


Above: Select views of the Long Point Trail near Fayetteville, including the "Money Shots" of the Bridge at the Trail's End Overlook




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Smithtown Bull in Smithtown, New York

  Before I moved to Upstate New York as a young man, I grew up in the Long Island town of Smithtown during the 1980s and 1990s. The recognizable symbol of Smithtown is a bronze statue of a bull named Whisper, located at the junction of NY Route 25 and NY Route 25A near the bridge over the Nissequogue River. Why a bull, you may ask. The bull is a symbol of a legend related to the town's founding in 1665 by Richard "Bull" Smythe, with a modernized name of Richard Smith. It also so happens that there is a story behind the legend, one that involves ancient land right transfers and some modern day roads as well. So the story goes that Smythe made an agreement with a local Indian tribe where Smythe could keep whatever land he circled around in a day's time riding atop his trusty bull. Choosing the longest day of the year for his ride, he set out with his bull Whisper and went about riding around the borders of the Town of Smithtown. As legend has it, Smythe t

The Midway Palm and Pine of US Route 99

Along modern day California State Route 99 south of Avenue 11 just outside the City limits of Madera one can find the Midway Palm and Pine in the center median of the freeway.  The Midway Palm and Pine denotes the halfway point between the Mexican Border and Oregon State Line on what was US Route 99.  The Midway Palm is intended to represent Southern California whereas the Midway Pine is intended to represent Northern California.  Pictured above the Midway Palm and Pine can be seen from the northbound lanes of the California State Route 99 Freeway.   The history of the Midway Palm and Pine The true timeframe for when the Midway Palm and Pine (originally a Deadora Cedar Tree) were planted is unknown.  In fact the origin of the Midway Palm and Pine was referenced in California's Gold Episode #608 during which Huell Howser examined numerous points claimed to be the Center of California.  During Episode #608 Huell Howser interviews Caltrans employee Bob Thompson who emphasizes there wa

Erie Canal: Little Falls and Moss Island

  Little Falls, New York is a small city in the Mohawk Valley that has been shaped by the forces of water throughout its history. Nowhere in Little Falls is that more evident than at Moss Island. Representing the Industrial Age, this is home of Lock 17 the tallest lock along the Erie Canal, but there is also evidence of the Ice Age in the form of 40 foot deep glacial potholes from when there was an ancient waterfall that was even larger than Niagara Falls at this spot, once draining Glacial Lake Iroquois when other outlets (such as the St. Lawrence River) were blocked by retreating glaciers. While Little Falls does not have the amount of industry around the river and canal than it once had, checking out what Moss Island has to offer is a great way to see what the city has to offer. Visiting Moss Island allows you to experience the engineering marvel that is the Erie Canal plus the wonders of nature by taking a hike around the island and seeing the glacial potholes. A