The New River Gorge Bridge

876 feet. That’s the amount of vertical space that exists between The New River Gorge Bridge and the water.

It all started with the Fayette Station Road, originally called the Gentry Road, which was 1909. The bridge below the main arch bridge is the Tunney Hunsacker Bridge (often referred to as “the little bridge” by visitors.) It was the first bridge for cars to cross the New River Gorge. At the time, that was the area’s engineering marvel.

In the 1960's, construction began on Route 19, also known as Corridor L. It needed to cross the New River Gorge, and the only question was how. The answer was to build what was then the largest arch bridge in the world. Construction began in 1974 and was completed 3 years later in 1977. 

The bridge is a structure of amazing statistics. 3030 feet long. 876 feet high. 70 feet wide. 88 million pounds of U.S. Cor-Ten steel and American cement. Opened and dedicated on October 22, 1977, the span has since become an iconic symbol of West Virginia.

Timeline

  • 1977
    The New River Gorge Bridge was dedicated and officially opened on Oct. 22.
  • 1980
    The first New River Gorge Bridge Day was held on November 8. There were two parachutists that jumped from a plane onto the bridge. There were five parachutists that jumped from the bridge into the Gorge. 5,500 certificates were given out to people taking the 3,000-foot walk across the bridge.
  • 1981
    28 rappellers and 10 parachutists participated in Bridge Day.
  • 1984
    Three hundred BASE jumpers jumped from the bridge.
  • 1985
    Oak Hill & Fayetteville Post Offices offered the first Bridge Day cachet. Jon McBride, NASA astronaut, was the honored guest.
  • 1986
    Four hundred BASE jumpers took the plunge.
  • 1990
    Tom King and Vivian Taylor tie the knot in the first wedding on the bridge.
  • 1992
    Chris Allum bungee jumps from the bridge to set a world’s record for the longest bungee jump from a fixed structure.
  • 1993
    Chris Allum and six others bungee jump for a record seven person jump.
  • 1997
    20th Anniversary of the dedication of the Bridge & Bridge Workers’ Appreciation Day. Twelve BASE Jumpers leaped off the bridge to break the world record for a simultaneous jump.
  • 1998
    Sixteen jumpers, a group of 12 followed by a group of 4, set a world record by jumping simultaneously.
  • 2000
    Two hundred sixty five people rappelled from the bridge.
  • 2001
    Bridge Day cancelled due to 9/11; The Spirit of Bridge Day was held in downtown Fayetteville. The First Mountain State Slalom and Skateboard Competition was held. The First Taste of Bridge Day was held.
  • 2002
    The First Bridge Day High Line was held. Bridge Day back on the bridge. Route 19 closed to through traffic from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • 2006
    The First Down Under Tour was held.
  • 2007
    Robert Handley became the oldest rapeller at 79.
  • 2012
    First catapult of BASE jumpers.
  • 2017
    Celebration of the Bridge's 40th birthday

Other Facts

  • Owner
    West Virginia Department of Highways
  • Design Engineer
    Michael Baker, Jr., Inc.
  • Contractor
    American Bridge Division – US Steel Corp.
  • Bid Price
    $33,984,000
  • Final Cost
    $37,000,000
  • Time to Build
    Three years – from 1973-1977
  • Time to Design
    The man hours for design calculations and drawings would be equivalent to one man working 40 hours per week for 15 years.
  • Longest steel arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere with a 1,700’ span
  • Second highest bridge in the United States at 876’
  • The bridge length is 3,030’
  • The deck width is 69 feet 4 inches
  • Total bridge weight is 88,000,000 lbs.
  • Ultra-high strength Cor-Ten weathering steel was used to blend into the surroundings and save approximately $1 million on paint