Destinations Magazine

Experiencing the Bridge Day Festival at the New River Gorge in West Virginia

By Kenin Bassart @Constantramble

The New River Gorge in West Virginia is home to the world’s largest single arch bridge that at its highest point stands 876 feet over the water of the New River. The bridge is an engineering marvel as well as a beautiful piece of architecture. Carved by the rushing river below it, the New River Gorge itself is a marvel of nature and an absolutely beautiful sight. The Bridge Day Festival at the New River Gorge was conceived as a way to celebrate the marriage of nature and modern engineering by doing something incredibly insane: JUMPING OFF THE BRIDGE!

Bridge Day Festival

 

The New River Gorge is estimated to be 345 million years old and it ranges between 700 and 1300 feet deep along it’s 85 mile course through West Virginia. The New River is considered to be one of the oldest rivers in the world and is home to world class rapids as it drops in over 850 feet of elevation in West Virginia alone. The Bridge above this majestic river is just as impressive.

New River Gorge WV

Opened and dedicated in 1977 the New River Gorge Bridge is 3030 feet long, 70 feet wide, and 876 feet high. Constructed with over 88 Million pounds of concrete and cement, it was decided that this modern marvel and symbol of West Virginia deserved to have it’s date of birth celebrated. 3 years after its opening, the first ever Bridge Day Festival was held, and it featured 2 parachutists and 5 B.A.S.E. jumpers. This year’s 35th Anniversary Bridge Day Festival hosted over 80K visitors, and over 1000 BASE Jumps. You could say it’s sort of a big deal.

The New River Bridge WV

Even if you’re not interested in jumping off a bridge, the Bridge Day Festival has a little bit of something for everyone. The Festival is always held on the Third Saturday of October and features a combination of local arts and crafts vendors, food vendors, music, rappelling, zip lining, and of course the opportunity to watch hundreds of adrenaline junkies jump off a bridge. Even if you can’t make it out for the Bridge Day Festival, a trip to the New River Gorge should be on your list of West Virginia travel destinations just to see the sheer beauty of it all.



Bridge Day Festival in Photos

Now that you know what Bridge Day is all about, experience it with us in these photos. As a spectator, most of the goings-on are visible from the top of the bridge span. Here you’ll find a fun mix of a craft fair, with the exotic experience of walking across a bridge.

Bridge Day Festival Entrance

Bridge Day Festival weaver

Bridge Day Festival food

Bridge Day Festival crowds

 

The main attraction, of course is the rig in the middle of the bride where you can watch the jumpers leap off the bridge or watch the parachutists come down from planes.

 

Bridge Day Festival

Bridge Day 72 Low-res

Bridge Day 68 Low-res

 

If you want to get a different perspective of the Bridge Day Festivities, you can arrange to take a shuttle down the 4.5 mile road into the bottom of the gorge. The shuttle does have an extra cost that varies from year to year. The ride down is great for some spectacular views. Once at the bottom, the gorge is breathtaking.

 

new river gorge bottom

New River Bridge Over Train Tracks

 

You can take the shuttle to the official landing zone for the event.  From there you can see the BASE jumpers free fall, open their chutes, and come in for landings.

 

Bridge Day 37 Low-res

Bridge Day 39 Low-res

Bridge Day 9 Low-res

Bridge Day 48 Low-res

 

Sometimes they even come in for a splash landing.

 

Bridge Day 19 Low-res

 

Afterward, they all seem pretty juiced up by their experience.

 

Bridge Day Festival Jumpers

Bridge Day 15 Low-res

 

The Bridge Day Festival was a fun and exciting event for us to check out. Even though jumping off a perfectly functioning plane or bridge has never been on my bucket list, it was pretty awesome to get to watch all these athletes perform their aerial acrobatics.

 



New River Gorge Bridge Day Parking and other Details

There are several different ways to get to the Bridge Day Festival here are a couple tips on how to get there and where the best places to park are. If you can, it’s best to approach Bridge Day from the North Side. There is a lot less traffic from that direction which makes parking (and leaving) much easier. If you approach from the North you want to set your GPS for Hico, WV which is at the intersection of HWY 60 and US 19. You can stay on Highway 19 South and simply park along the side of the road. If you arrive late, however, I recommend you look out for the shuttle stops and pay the $2.00 to be driven in.

Arriving from the South you want to head towards Fayetteville, WV and then continue along HWY 19 N until you either park on the side of the road or take a shuttle. The south side of the bridge is where most visitors come from since it’s easily accessible from Fayetteville and Beckley so I don’t recommend roadside parking unless you arrive very early (i.e. 8:30am). You are much better off finding one of the shuttle stops and then heading in from there.

Admission to Bridge Day is free to spectators.

More updated information on both parking and shuttle locations can be found on the official webpage here.


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