Bridge Day – Frequently Asked Questions

On the third Saturday in October, the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce hosts "Bridge Day." On this one day a year, the famous New River Gorge Bridge is open to pedestrians and a wide variety of activities—great views, food and crafts vendors, BASE jumping, rappelling, music, and more—draw thousands of people.  Bridge Day is West Virginia’s largest one-day festival, and it is the largest extreme sports event in the world. What is New River Gorge National River? New River Gorge National River was established in 1978 to conserve and protect 53 miles of the New River as a free-flowing waterway.  This unit of the National Park System encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River between the towns of Hinton and Fayetteville, West Virginia.  A “national river” contains significant natural and cultural resources, and is managed by the National Park Service, in the same manner and with the same goals as all national parks. New River Gorge Bridge is located within the boundaries of New River Gorge National River and the National Park Service plays a major role in supporting the event and ensuring visitor safety.  However, the bridge is managed by the West Virginia Department of Highways.

What makes New River Gorge National River a special place? New River Gorge National River contains an outstanding array of significant natural and cultural resources:

  • Flowing water is the definitive creative force of the New River Gorge. The New River, one of the oldest rivers in the world, continues to sculpt the longest and deepest river gorge in the Appalachian Mountains.
  • The waters of the New River system contain a mosaic of hydrologic features and aquatic habitats, support a unique aquatic ecosystem, and nourish a riparian zone that supports rare plants, animals, and communities.
  • New River Gorge National River lies at the core of a globally significant forest, contains the most diverse flora of any river gorge in central and southern Appalachia, and provides essential habitat for endangered mammals and rare birds and amphibians.
  • New River Gorge National River contains a large, outstanding, and representative group of historic places that testify to the experiences of the diverse people who settled and developed this part of Appalachia between the 19th and mid-20th centuries.
  • Broad views of unbroken forest, steep gorge walls, and a river both tranquil and turbulent are punctuated by pastoral landscapes and industrial ruins to produce dramatic and vivid views from the river, along trails and rural roads, and from rocky overlooks.  New River Gorge National River affords exceptional opportunities for exploration, adventure, discovery, solitude, and community.

What makes the New River Gorge Bridge so special? The New River Gorge Bridge has the world's 2nd longest single arch steel span. The arch span on the Lupu Bridge in Shanghai, at 550 meters, bests the New River Gorge Bridge by 32 meters (105 feet).  At 876 feet above the New River, it is the second highest bridge in this country. Only the Royal Gorge Bridge, 1053 feet over the Arkansas River in Colorado, is higher.

When was the first Bridge Day? The first New River Gorge Bridge Day was held on November 8, 1980.  Two parachutists jumped from a plane onto the bridge.  They were joined by three additional parachutists, and all five then jumped from the bridge into the gorge.

When will the BASE jumping start? Weather permitting, jumping starts at 9:00, and is permitted until 3:00 p.m.  If there is fog, jumping will start as soon as the landing zone is visible.

What does BASE stand for? "BASE" is an acronym for the four categories of objects from which one can jump: Building, Antenna (tower), Span (bridge or arch), and Earth (cliff or other natural formation).

What are the requirements for jumping at Bridge Day? Jumpers must have made at least one parachute jump (skydives and/or BASE jumps) in the two years prior to Bridge Day, and must have made at least 100 parachute jumps (skydives and/or BASE jumps) altogether.  Jumpers must be 18 years of age or older, and use jumping specific or approved skydiving gear only.

How long does it take for jumpers to reach the bottom? It is approximately 8 seconds from the bridge to the water of the New River. Most jumpers will free fall from the bridge for 3 to 4 seconds before deploying their parachute.  They will spend the next 20 to 30 seconds floating down to the landing zone.

Have there been any jumper fatalities on Bridge Day? Yes, three.  Fatalities occurred in 1983, 1987, and 2006.  An additional BASE jumper death (1986) occurred during an illegal jump and was not related to Bridge Day.  Although all efforts are made to provide for jumper safety, BASE jumping is an inherently dangerous sport.

Do people bungee jump from the New River Gorge Bridge? No, bungee jumping is not allowed from the bridge.

What items are not permitted on the bridge? No backpacks, coolers, or large handbags. No dogs. No bicycles, skates, skateboards, or wagons. No weapons, fireworks, illegal drugs, or alcoholic beverages.

When will Rt. 19 and the bridge close and open? The bridge and the immediately adjacent sections of Rt. 19 are closed to vehicle traffic from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Bridge Day.  Fayette Station Road is closed to vehicle traffic from sundown Friday to 5:00 p.m. on Bridge Day.

How many jumpers are there? In recent years, 350-400  jumpers for a total of over 800 total jumps.  This averages approximately one jump every 30 seconds. The average age of all jumpers is around 32, and 12% of the jumpers are female.  More than ten countries and 35 states are usually represented.

Who organizes and oversees Bridge Day? The WV Legislature established the New River Gorge Bridge Day Commission to sanction, coordinate and promulgate rules and regulations for the annual event.  The NRGBD Commission is composed of representatives from the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Fayette County Commission, WV State Police, Fayetteville Police, WV Division of Highways, and the National Park Service serving in an advisory position.

How does the National Park Service support Bridge Day? The National Park Service’s goal is to provide park visitors with a safe and enjoyable experience, and at the same time safeguard the natural and cultural resources of this national treasure.  Over forty National Park Service employees work very long days before, during and after Bridge Day to ensure all visitors, BASE jumpers, media, and other agency employees have a safe and memorable day.  Park rangers are on the river below the bridge, on the bridge, at the landing zone at Fayette Station, in the visitor centers and major overlooks, and behind the scenes providing administrative and organizational support. At the same time, NPS also provides services in other areas throughout the park, at Gauley River National Recreation Area and Bluestone National Scenic River, on the annual New River Excursion Train, and in Hinton, WV, at the Railroad Days Festival