Did you know that the highest bridge in the United States is located near Cañon City in Colorado?
In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Royal Gorge Bridge, one of the most amazing bridges in the world!
1. It was the highest bridge in the world for 72 years
The Royal Gorge Bridge was completed in the year 1929 and officially became the highest bridge in the world in that year as it surpassed the Sidi M’Cid Bridge in Algeria.
It has a deck height of 955 feet (291 meters) when measured to the surface of the river below, which is much higher than the world’s highest bridge at the time which is just 574 feet (175 meters) high!
One of the most fascinating facts about the Royal Gorge Bridge is that it took until the year 2001 before it lost its title as the highest bridge in the world. That year it was surpassed by the Liuguanghe Bridge in China which has a deck height of 974 feet (297 meters).
It held on to the title of “highest suspension bridge in the world” for a bit longer as it was only surpassed by the “Beipan River Guanxing Highway Bridge” in China which has a deck height of 1,200 feet (366 meters).
So what’s the current highest bridge in the world?
The Duge Bridge in China is nearly double as high as the Royal Gorge with a height of 1,854 feet (565 meters), absolutely astounding!
2. It crosses a gorge above a famous river
The Royal Gorge Bridge is located just to the west of the small town of Cañon City in the U.S. state of Colorado.
It spans the Royal Gorge above the Arkansas River, a 1,469 miles (2,364 kilometers) long river that eventually becomes a major tributary to the Mississippi River.
3. It took just 6 months to build the bridge in 1929
Another one of those amazing facts about the Royal Gorge Bridge is that it only took 6 months to complete! Lon P. Piper was the president of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Amusement Company and the man who commissioned the bridge.
George E. Cole was the chief engineer and designer of the bridge and construction started on June 5, 1929. The bridge was completed in November of the same year and the official opening took place on December 8, 1929.
4. The bridge is covered with 1292 wooden planks
One of the main reasons that the construction of the Royal Gorge Bridge was so fast is that it wasn’t built to accommodate heavy traffic.
It’s possible to cross the bridge with a car before or after the park closes, but the main idea was to make it serve as a tourist attraction and allow pedestrians to cross it and enjoy the amazing scenery.
Therefore, the bridge is covered with a total of 1,292 wooden panels of which about 250 are replaced every year.
5. Building the Royal Gorge Bridge was very expensive
The original plan was to build a bridge that would cost $250,000 to build. The eventual cost was about $350,000, about $100,000 over the original budget, and all funded by the company operating it.
The give some reference, back in the 1920s that was the equivalent of over USD 20 million today, a huge amount!
6. The Bridge is part of a huge amusement park
The bridge is part of a park referred to as the “Royal Gorge Bridge and Park,” an amusement park located on both sides of the Royal Gorge which covers an area of 360 acres (150 hectares).
This means that the bridge isn’t the only attraction in the park! There are also multiple other attractions such as a zip line, aerial gondolas, a sky coaster, and multiple indoor activities for adults and children.
7. The Royal Gorge Bridge goes nowhere
One of the most peculiar facts about the Royal Gorge Bridge is that it’s literally going nowhere. It doesn’t serve any other purpose than to function as a tourist attraction for visitors to the park, not as part of the road network.
What does this mean?
If you cross the bridge in your car, all you can do is make a u-turn at the end!
8. Cañon City is the cheapest place to live because of the bridge
Cañon City is a small, sleepy town, right next to the Royal Canyon. Because the town actually owns the land of the amusement park, which leases it from the town, residents of the town have an enormous benefit.
This town is the cheapest town in all of Colorado to live in because the property taxes are so low. To give an example, people buying a home worth $250,000 only have to pay $75 annually. For the same house in Denver, they would pay up to $2,000 annually!
This is made possible by the amusement park which pays part of its profits, as well as a lease agreement to the town, which subsequently uses these funds to cut property taxes for its citizens, pretty cool!
9. A Texan-based oil magnate bought the bridge, but never saw it
Things weren’t always so great, especially the two decades following its construction. The year that the bridge was completed, the Wall Street Stock Market Crash happened followed by the Great Depression.
A lot of people didn’t have fun trips to the highest bridge in the United States on their minds, and the company running the park felt the consequences.
Lon P. Piper, the president of the company, decided to sell the bridge and leasing rights to some local businessmen and a Texas-based oil magnate named Clint Murchison.
One of the weirdest facts about the Royal Gorge Bridge is that Murchison never even saw the bridge he purchased in real life, not even when he became the sole owner of it!
Ever since 1984, the company’s day-to-day business is run by Dallas-based company “Leisure and Recreational Concepts.”
10. The bridge is added to the National Register of Historic Places
As the highest bridge in the United States and one of the most magnificent landmarks in the country, the Royal Gorge Bridge was inscribed on the “National Register of Historic Places.”
This happened on September 2, 1983.
11. A huge wildfire damaged many attractions in the park in 2013
A tragic event happened on June 11, 2013, as a wildfire was raging which destroyed most of the park’s buildings. Luckily, the Royal Gorge Bridge remained intact except for a few hundred wooden panels.
The damage was enormous because the fire burned about 3,218 acres (1,302 hectares), of which 2,156 acres (873 hectares) were park property. About 48 of the 50 buildings and attractions of the park were destroyed in the fire on both sides of the gorge.
12. USD 30 million in repairs were completed in 2015
The renovation of the park cost a total of USD 30 million and the official re-opening of the park happened on May 8, 2015.
Quite an expensive fire, don’t you think?
13. The aerial tram was replaced with new gondolas
One of the most famous attractions apart from the bridge was the aerial tram, which ran just next to the bridge. Unfortunately, this aerial tram didn’t make it and had to be replaced.
The tram was replaced with amazing gondolas which provide an even more fascinating experience as you can look directly down into the gorge!
14. Cañon City receives a lot of yearly commissions from the park
Cañon City and its residents are very happy that the park was reopened, as the town receives even bigger commissions now. The park paid the town a record USD 2.1 million in lease payments in the year 2016, an astronomical amount!
About 350,000 people visit the park every year.
15. Millions of people have visited the Royal Gorge Bridge since its opening
So how many people have visited the Royal Gorge Bridge so far?
After the fire, an estimate was made as to how many people have visited the bridge since its opening in 1929. The number they came up with was an astounding 26 million visitors!
The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park have been a remarkable success story.