Ever since the construction began on the New River Gorge Bridge in 1973, millions of onlookers and curious types have been drawn to this massive 3,030’ span that physically dominates the region. Located just outside of Fayetteville, WV, the 876’ high bridge is the second highest bridge in the US. This span over the New River also holds the record for the longest steel arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere. Once a year, the bridge is opened up to pedestrian traffic as a celebration occurs honoring the bridge’s rich history and the positive impact it has had on travelers from all over the world. Around the beautiful hills of WV and beyond, this event is simply known as “Bridge Day”.
Scheduled for October 20th, the biggest draw to this event is the rush of adrenaline junkies and soul searchers who seek out the bridge for its height, history, and highly restricted access. This is the only day of the year where BASE jumping and rappelling are legally allowed on the New River Gorge Bridge.
Each year, the number of applicants vying for one of the coveted, limited BASE spots continues to grow.
A voluntary desire to “walk the plank” may not appeal to all, but for many of these dedicated individuals, their year is not fully complete until a successful New River Gorge bridge jump has been achieved.
This year, the organizers are bringing something a little different to the table: a human catapult!
Up to 24 lucky BASE jumpers will be hurled up to 20’ vertically and 50’ horizontally from the safety of the New River Gorge bridge. Using a specifically designed steel truss fueled by regulated air pressure, this new feature of Bridge Day promises to add a whole new level of excitement to the event.
Rappelers will also be descending from the bridge, albeit a bit more controlled than the “one step to death” BASE jumping crowd. Using a tandem series of “figure 8’s” and static line ropes, the rappelers will affix their ropes and gear to the bottom of the span’s structure for a controlled drop that varies in time dependent upon each participant’s preferences. With over 10,000 rappels from the bridge since 1981, miraculously, there has only been one injury.
Vendors will be set up near the bridge site selling food, drinks, tie-dyes, arts and crafts, and everything else under the sun. Prohibited items include backpacks, coolers, folding chairs, large handbags, strollers, and alcohol. Bicycles will not be allowed on or near the bridge, but will be granted access to ride down into the gorge via Fayette Station road. Shuttle services will also be available to transport guests down to the river below the bridge, offering a completely different perspective on this heralded and most famous WV event. The fee for this service is $20 per person and reservations are required.
Parking is first come, first serve, with shuttle carriers transporting visitors from their cars to a location drop near the bridge. Other activities and programs, such as The Taste of Bridge Day, will be held throughout the Bridge Day weekend, offering alternatives and compliments to this captivating mountain spectacle. Based upon past experiences during the annual Bridge Day celebrations, a camera is strongly recommended, as well as an extra jacket just in case the weather turns sour. Get there early, get plenty of sleep the night before, and get ready to enjoy yet another one of WV’s greatest treasures.
Additional information can be obtained via officalbridgeday.com and/or 1-800-927-0263.
– Craig Miller, LBSPY #17