While it was once the highest bridge in the entire world, an honor now held by China’s Sidu River Bridge, Colorado’s Royal Gorge Bridge is still the highest bridge in America, not to mention one of the most cheaply built given its vertigo-inducing size.
Purpose built in 1929 specifically to attract tourists to the massive gorge, the Royal Gorge Bridge spans over 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River at the bottom of the chasm. At it peak, the deck of the bridge is suspended 956 feet above the valley floor, at one point earning the distinction of being higher than any other bridge before being knocked down to 11th place by a parade of increasingly daring Chinese spans. And while the sheer height of the bridge is enough to make someone gape, considering that it was originally built for a measly $350,000 dollars makes the historic landmark even more jaw-dropping.
Thanks to some shoring up in the 1990s, the Royal Gorge bridge continues to draw tourists and motorists across its dizzying heights nearly 90 years after its construction. Various thrillists have also made use of the bridge for bungee jumping and other aerial acts including a man in a wingsuit who attempted to fly over the bridge in 2003 but ran into a pylon and was instantly killed.
The vast majority of the park including the aerial tram over the gorge and the famous old incline railway was completely destroyed by wildfire in June of 2013. The bridge was spared with only 32 of its original wooden planks damaged beyond saving. Some of those planks have been salvaged and are on display or in use in other parts of the park. Ninety percent of the park was devastated and completely destroyed. However, the owners vowed to rebuild so a new visitors center was built along with a new triple car version of the aerial tram. Many other new bits of the park have been rebuilt and the park is back open—better than ever.