Saturday, January 30, 2016

5 Bridges of the West: The highest, the most romantic and the most unusual

In the west, you'll find that bridges, many over deep canyons and rushing rivers, are created out of necessity rather than for art. While these bridges are not the typical that you will think of when you hear the word, "bridge," they are all interesting in their own right. While you travel the West, enjoy a walk or a ride over some of these bridges both small and large.

This was taken before the bridge burned.
I was able to walk across during a planned Volkswalk.
America's Highest Suspension Bridge - Royal Gorge, Colorado
The bridge over Royal Gorge is America's highest suspension bridge. The bridge crosses the Royal Gorge 955 feet above the Arkansas River. I visited many years ago, before the big fire that destroyed the bridge. For me, crossing the bridge on foot was an exciting adventure. You could look down into the deep gorge and, at certain times of the day, see the train winding its way along the river.

The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park was almost totally destroyed in a wild fire in June of 2013. The ground-breaking ceremony for the new Visitor Center and beginnings of a new park took place January 31, 2014, when the bridge turned 85 years old.  A little over a year since the fire started, the park was opened.

Now there is a modern visitors center where you can relax and view the bridge, a zip line and gondolas. It is a great family destination.  More on Royal Gorge Bridge and Park.

London Bridge - Lake Havasu, Arizona
Imagine, taking a bridge in London England apart stone by stone and shipping it to the Arizona desert. That is what was Robert P. McCulloch did in 1967. Each stone was numbered and then used in the reconstruction of the bridge over part of Lake Havasu in Havasu City, Arizona. The bridge was completed in 1971 along with a canal. It serves to link an island in the lake with the main part of Lake Havasu City.

You can stay in view of the bridge at the London Bridge Resort. The canal-side resort continues the London theme by housing a replica of England’s legendary Gold State Coach.  Built in 1762 to be pulled by a team of eight matched horses, the actual 24-foot-long gilded carriage has carried every British Monarch since King George III to their coronation at Westminster Abbey.

Lake Havasu is a mecca for boaters and those enjoying fun on the water, especially during Spring Break. The London Bridge remains a tourist attraction. More on Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Verde Canyon Railroad Trestles - Clarkdale, Arizona
A ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad just north of Phoenix, Arizona will give you a chance to relax and ride back in time to the mining days of Arizona. You'll also, depending on the season, see wildlife such as Eagles and deer.

More than any other feature, Arizona is defined by canyons, after all it is the Grand Canyon State. All across the state, great gorges in the landscape are destinations for their scenery and history. One of the most spectacular is in Verde Canyon. The Verde Canyon Railroad crosses trestles in this deep canyon containing the Verde River.
Guests in the open-air observation car have the best view and photo opportunities.  You'll experience a little Arizona railroad construction history which includes the S.O.B. Canyon trestle, Perkinsville Bridge and a 680-foot-long manmade tunnel. More on the Verde Canyon Railroad Excursions.

Rio San Antonio Bridges - San Antonio, Texas
One of the most popular things to do in San Antonio is to walk The River Walk. Part of the fun is crossing one of the many small scenic bridges along the San Antonio River. Unlike most bridges which are attractions because of their height, these little bridges are considered the most romantic. They are especially beautiful at night while strolling Mariachis add to the atmosphere.

One special place along the river, Marriage Island, is a little island where many weddings take place within view of two of the river's bridges.

A great way to see the bridges from another angle is to take a Rio San Antonio River Barge cruise which is especially festive at holiday time.

Just after Thanksgiving the entire river is lighted for the season. Barges often have musicians and carolers aboard.

Multnomah Falls Bridge - Columbia River Gorge, Oregon
Multnomah Falls is a top tourist destination in the Columbia River Gorge, just east of Portland, Oregon. These beautiful falls drop in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet and a lower falls of 69 feet, with a gradual 9 foot drop in elevation between the two. The total height of the waterfall is listed as 620 feet. Beautiful Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon.

There are several ways to see the falls, based on your activity level. Of course you can visit from the base and take a photo of the double falls. Most take a short hike along an asphalt path to the bridge spanning the falls. This is the bridge seen in most photos. It is a short bridge leading to the other side of the falls and a trail with many switchbacks taking you to the top of the falls. 

More on Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River Gorge.