I just got back from a visit home to West Virginia. Every time I go, there’s a moment when I realize I’ll have to drive (or persuade my husband to drive) over the New River Gorge Bridge. I don’t typically have bridge issues. Normally, I just cross them and keep going.

But the Gorge.


It all started a few years ago, on a lovely summer afternoon, when I stopped at the visitor’s center to stretch my legs and get the history of the place.

This was a mistake . While it was helpful in terms of learning more about the state that I love, the trip down the 278 steps to the viewing platform was regrettable. Not only could I look UP (way, way up) at the world’s second longest single span expansion bridge, I could also look DOWN into the gorge.

Way, way down. And I could see just how dramatic the distance is between the river and that steel and concrete span. Not to mention how preposterous it is that the thing stays in the air. I mean, it’s HUGE. And there’s nothing under it but air.

Did I mention I have an issue with heights?

Just so you know, it takes two verses of Amazing Grace to get across (over half a mile). And even while singing really, really loud, my brain can still picture all that empty space beneath my tires. Oy. My tummy still hurts. But I did it. Because it’s between my two favorite places in the world and it’s always worth 20 seconds of agony.

Here are a few other things you might find interesting about the New River Gorge Bridge:

  • The bridge is open to pedestrians one day a year on Bridge Day in October (which means one side is open and there’s two-way traffic on the other–I’m SO not driving across that day).
  • On Bridge Day people rapel from the bridge and base jump. They sign up way in advance and vie for the chance to do this. Seriously.
  • The bridge is 3,030 feet long, 876 feet high, 70 feet wide, and weighs 88 million pounds. Did you get that last one? Held up by a single arch.
  • The Washington Monument would fit under the bridge with 325 feet to spare.
  • Throughout the year there are Bridge Walk tours offered. Guides lead guests on a stroll of the full length of the catwalk under the bridge. People pay to do this.
  • When the bridge was opened in 1977 it cut the trip across the gorge from 45 minutes to 25 seconds. Somehow it seems to take longer . . .

If you want to learn more about Bridge Day or the bridge itself, click here. I recommend a visit. Just watch your phobias.