26 Million Visitors
956 Ft Above the River
4200 Steel Cables
1257 Wooden Planks

The place where adventures begin.

From fossils to Native Americans, coal mining operations to building the Royal Gorge Bridge, our region holds many clues to the past. Centuries before the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park existed, the river carrying pebbles and sediment along the ground over millions of years eventually formed – and continues to shape – the vast depths of the Royal Gorge we see today.

The Arkansas River has helped reveal prehistoric rock, giving researchers clues to Colorado’s ancient climate. The Royal Gorge rock walls consist of granite and gneiss of pre-Cambrian age, which dates as old as 4 billion years. With the construction of the Royal Gorge Bridge in 1929, visitors and families from all over the world are able to gaze across the Royal Gorge and admire the forces of the Earth. You can view the ancient rock up-close on our Via Ferrata climbing experience and realize the intricacies of the Arkansas River’s path. 

Continue reading for details about our earliest visitors, the building of the bridge, and the Royal Gorge Fire.

The Earliest Visitors

From the ancient Stegosaurus to the warriors of the Sioux Tribe, the Royal Gorge has been home to many throughout its long history. Over 100 million years ago, dinosaurs such as allosaurus, camptosaurus, stegosaurus, and the mighty brontosaurus roamed the Royal Gorge Region. Paleontologists have made fossil discoveries of these ancient species less than three miles from the Royal Gorge Bridge in Southern Colorado. Across the highway from the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, families can find the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience to see exhibits, labs, and more to learn about the ancient reptiles.

Many, many years after dinosaurs were extinct, Native American tribes arrived. The opportunities for hunting and camping within the sheltered canyons throughout the Royal Gorge Region provided a safe and prosperous place for them to call home. In fact, the Ute Indian Tribe, a mountain tribe, often wintered in the Royal Gorge to escape the wind and the cold. And a number of Plains Indian tribes, including Sioux, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Blackfeet and Comanche, followed buffalo herds down into the meadows in the warmer months.

When you visit Royal Gorge Bridge & Park in Colorado, you’re not just visiting a family-friendly attraction, you are following the footsteps of ancient species, Native Americans, and fearless explorers!

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

The Royal Gorge Fire

It was Tuesday afternoon on June 11th, 2013, when a wildfire erupted west of the Royal Gorge Bridge in Southern Colorado. It did not take long for flames to jump the walls of the Royal Gorge, as strong winds accelerated extreme fire conditions. All visitors and staff members were evacuated safely that evening. While the people were safe, the majority of the buildings at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park were scorched. Rides, attractions, and the surrounding vegetation were damaged or destroyed in the Royal Gorge Fire of 2013. Out of our 360-acre park, 90% was destroyed. Thankfully our most prized attraction, the Royal Gorge Bridge, survived all but approximately 100 planks.

Over the course of 14 months, demolition and rebuilding took place at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park while it was closed to visitors. By Labor Day weekend of 2014, guests were welcomed back to a whole new park, which includes our 14,500-square-foot visitor Center, new landscaping, and the brand new Poma-Leitner Aerial Gondolas. We are happy to now offer breathtaking rides, such as America’s highest zip line, the Skycoaster, and Tommy Knocker Playland. The playland offers plenty of things to do for children to safely enjoy a day at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park with activities such as a carousel, gold panning, and more. Since the fiery destruction, growth has been on the rise at Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. We hope you choose the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park for your next adventure!

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