The USA’s Beautiful, Must-See Bridges

by Marco70 and Andrew Marcione

I’ve always had a fascination with bridges and have wanted to see them in all their various forms of ingenuity and design across the USA. The country has thousands of bridges, from small to big, wide to narrow, covered to open, suspended to fixed, that connect people and places with one another. The unique characteristics of these feats of engineering have made many of them famous. Be sure to visit and admire them one day.

Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, CA

san francisco bridgeWhen this most instantly recognizable bridge in the world opened in 1937, the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed it the “35-million-dollar steel harp!” The 9th longest suspension bridge in the world took just four years to complete, has 600,000 rivets and regularly receives its coating of International Orange paint, which actually helps to protect it from the high salt content in the air.

Brooklyn Bridge – New York, NY 

bbridgeAn iconic feature of  the Big Apple’s skyline, this is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the U.S. Upon opening in 1883, the toll to use it varied according to who, how and what went across it. A person paid one penny; it was ¢5 for a rider on a horse and ¢10 for a horse and wagon. Farmers had to pay ¢5 per cow and just ¢2 per pig and sheep. These tolls came to an end in 1911, and the bridge has been free to use ever since.

Royal Gorge Bridge – Canyon City, CO 

 Royal Gorge Bridge956 feet above the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge Bridge is the United States’ highest suspension bridge. Completed within five months in 1929 at a cost of $350,000, this was the world’s highest until the Sidu River Bridge, in China, opened in 2001. Visitors to the bridge can either cross it by car, on their own two feet along the walkway, which comprises 1,292 wooden planks, by zip line or gondola.

Bixby Creek Bridge – Big Sur, CA

Big surBlessed with a stunning location on Highway 1, it’s easy to see why this California bridge is on the list of the most photographed on the West Coast and the most treasured of the five others along the 30-mile stretch of highway. The bridge opened in 1932 and received its name after Charles Henry Bixby, an entrepreneur who many deemed influential in the development of the Big Sur area at that time.

Mackinac Bridge – Michigan

mackinac-bridgeKnown as “Big Mac” or “Mighty Mac,” this is the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere and fifth in the world. Michigan’s famous bridge—the highest point mid-span is 200 feet above the water—opened to traffic over the Straits of Mackinac in 1957. The annual Mackanic Bridge Walk between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace provides a great opportunity to appreciate this wonderful feat in engineering.

Francis Scott Key Bridge – Washington D.C.

Key_Bridge Commonly referred to as the Key Bridge, or “the Car-Strangled Banner” whenever traffic is at its worst, it also marks the location of the former Alexandria Aqueduct Bridge, which began carrying canal boats in 1843. By 1916, Congress approved funds for a replacement of the aging structure, which the Army Corps of Engineers completed in 1923. It’s D.C.’s oldest bridge over the Potomac and connects Georgetown with Rosslyn, Virginia.

Sundial Bridge – Redding, CA

reddingThis pedestrian bridge crosses the Sacramento River and reflects Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s signature design. Opened in 2004, the bridge connects to the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and serves as a downtown entry point to Redding’s extensive Sacramento River Trail System. The Sundial Bridge also functions as a sundial, and it’s one of the largest in the world. You can view it work one foot per minute between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM.

Clairborne Pell Bridge – Newport, RI

Claiborne_Pell_Newport_BridgeBuilt in 1969, New England’s longest suspension bridge demonstrated its strength when a tanker laden with 50,000 barrels of oil hit one of the main piers. The bridge came out of the incident with a streak from the tanker’s grey paint, but the impact crumpled its bow inward by 10 feet.  In 1997, the state of Rhode Island dedicated the bridge to Clairborne Pell, who served as a U.S. Senator for six terms. His name is not only synonymous with the financial aid grants for university students, but he also sponsored legislation for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

George Washington Bridge – New York, NY

new-19473The GW Bridge has spanned the Hudson River since its inauguration in 1931.  The double-decked suspension bridge boasts 12 toll lanes on the upper level and 10 on the lower level, the latter opened in 1962. Combined, these enable 106 million cars to travel from New Jersey’s Palisades to Manhattan every year, thereby making it the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge. To appreciate this spectacular structure, follow the Long Path from Hudson Terrace on the New Jersey side to reap the rewards of a stunning sight.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge – Maryland

Chesapeake Bay BridgeAlso named the William Preston Lane Jr. Bridge, in honor of the Maryland governor who initiated its construction, the 4.3-mile-long bridge has struck anxiety in many drivers since it opened in 1952. In bad weather, the roller coaster-like journey across it raises the bar of fear even more. The staggering number of panic-ridden motorists sparked a company to start a transportation service to assist those who simply can’t make it from one side to the other. Drivers can either arrange for someone to get behind the wheel for them,  or hop in a company van with others.

Seven Mile Bridge – Florida Keys, FL

looooooong_bridgeThanks to the vision of Henry Flagler, this iconic structure connecting the Florida peninsula with the Keys initially began as a “railroad that went to sea.” The route was open from 1912 to 1935, at which point a powerful hurricane devastated large portions of it. In the end, Flagler sold the entire structure to Florida, and it didn’t take long for the state to convert it into a highway that served motorists until 1982. Since the new one opened, the Old Seven Mile Bridge has been a place for cyclists, walkers, joggers and fishermen. The gap south of Pigeon Key prevents people from reaching the other 5.8-mile section.

Tacoma Narrows Bridge – Tacoma, WA

narrows-bridge- These twin suspension bridges, the fifth longest in the U.S., span the Tacoma Narrows Strait of Washington’s Puget Sound, linking Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula. Four months after “Galloping Gertie” opened on July 1, 1940, a windstorm damaged the structure so severely that it collapsed, prompting its notoriety as “the most dramatic failure in bridge engineering history.” The replacement of the original bridge opened in 1950 and stands today as the westbound lanes.

The Dames Point Bridge – Jacksonville, FL

Dames_Point_Bridge_at_Night_-_17_June_2013The cable-stay bridge over the St. John’s River has belonged to Jacksonville’s cityscape since 1989. It stands 175 feet above the water and consists of 21 miles of cable to make up the harp-style design. Also known as the Napolean Bonaparte Broward Bridge, Broward was Florida’s 19th governor (1905-1909) and smuggled weapons to Cuban revolutionaries on his steam tugboat before the onset of the Spanish-American War in 1898.

New River Gorge Bridge – Fayetteville, WV

New River Gorge BridgeBuilt in 1977, this steel arch bridge is one of superlatives. It’s the longest of its kind in North America, the highest vehicle bridge in the Americas and ranks second in the world in this category. For an amazing and heart-thumping experience, strap on a safety harness and go on the Bridgewalk Tour. The 24-inch-wide catwalk runs the length of the 3,030-foot-long bridge and provides visitors with a stunning panorama of the surrounding landscape and an unforgettable view of the New River 876 feet below their feet.

Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge – New Orleans, LA

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA --- Lake Pontchartrain Causeway --- Image by ?? David Frazier/CorbisThis is the longest bridge over water in the world. When traveling on it, any sign of land is absent for eight of its 24 miles. Built upon 9,000 concrete pilings, the first stretch opened in 1956 and the other in 1969. A total of 80 feet separate the two spans of highway, each consisting of two lanes and a total of seven crossovers that assist drivers to pull off in case of an emergency. The 630-square-mile lake received its name after the Count of Pontchartrain, who was the finance minister under King Louis XIV.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge – Tampa, FL

Sunshine-Skyway-Bridge During a sudden thunderstorm in May 1980, the Summit Venture freighter crashed into the pylons of the old Sunshine Skyway Bridge, destroying 1300-feet of it and sending traffic into Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, 35 people died that morning. The new bridge is a concrete cable-stayed bridge and is further from the point where ships make their turns, allowing them more room to maneuver in the channel. A memorial with the names of those who perished now stands in Blackthorn Memorial Park, which also pays tribute to the 23 crew members who died in the sinking of the Coast Guard Cutter Blackthorn in January 1980.

Flume Covered Bridge – Lincoln, NH

bridge

Built in 1871, the Flume Bridge spans 50 feet over the Pemigewasset River in the Franconia Notch State Park, and it’s one of 65 covered bridges in New Hampshire. Many such bridges began to spring up around North America in the 19th century, in order to protect the wooden floor from the elements. Some say that it also helped horses and other animals from becoming spooked by rushing water below. At one point, there were 15,000 covered bridges in North America, now there are less than 1,000. Pennsylvania has the most with 200.

Photos Credits:

Chesapeake Bay bridge- Pinterest, wikipedia- the dame point bridge, Royal gorge, francis key bridge, Newport bridge,Seven miles- fhwa.dot.gov, Lake Pontchartrain Bridge- David Frazer, Sunshine skyway bridge- floridaphotomatt.com

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