Building The Royal Gorge Bridge
Can you imagine what it took for builders in 1929 to construct America’s highest suspension bridge? The Royal Gorge Bridge spans 1,260 feet from rim to rim of the Royal Gorge, suspending 956 above the Arkansas River. A team of about 80 hardy men braved the heights and built the Royal Gorge Bridge, beginning June 5th, 1929. In just seven months, the men finished this engineering feat! The Royal Gorge Bridge opened to visitors for the first time on December 8th, 1929.
The story of building the Royal Gorge Bridge is one of American ingenuity, hard work, and solid engineering. The vision of a bridge spanning rim to rim over the Royal Gorge was dreamed by Lon Piper, a businessman and bridge builder from San Antonio, Texas, when he visited the Royal Gorge in 1928. Lon Piper imagined the bridge to give anyone who crosses it the chance to see the stunning scenery of the Royal Gorge Region.
Engineer George E. Cole worked many times with Lon Piper and became Chief Engineer and General Superintendent for what would be the world’s highest suspension bridge for more than seven decades. As of 2022, the Royal Gorge Bridge remains the highest suspension bridge in the United States and among the 25 highest bridges in the world. It is dubbed as “America’s Bridge” to recognize the spirited band of American workers and the timeless enjoyment millions of people experience while standing on the wooden deck suspended high above the ground.
Are you wondering yet how the men even started this massive project? Steel towers were built on opposite sides of the Royal Gorge first, then two half-inch steel cables were lowered into the gorge, joined, and pulled back up. View the current facts about the Royal Gorge Bridge:
After completion in 1929, the Royal Gorge Bridge could boast:
- Length – 1,260 feet
- Width – 18 feet
- Main Span – 880 feet
- Towers – 150 feet high
- 2,100 strands of No. 9 galvanized wire in each cable
- 2 primary suspension cables
- Weight of cables – 300 tons
- Bridge capacity – 2,000,000+ pounds
- 1,000 tons of steel in floor of bridge
- 1,257 planks in deck – about 250 replaced annually
- 1,053 feet from the top of the bridge towers to the Arkansas River
- 956 feet from the bridge deck to the Arkansas River