October 12th, 2020
By Nathan Kosmicki, WVRHC Graduate Assistant.
Fayette County reserves the third Saturday in October for an exciting and unique celebration of outdoor recreation, civil engineering, and local pride. This celebration is known around the country as Bridge Day. The New River Gorge attracts thousands of visitors annually for both outdoor recreation and its scenic views. Historically the gorge was a source of coal mining in the now abandoned town of Thurmond, West Virginia. Crossing the gorge prior to the completion of the famous New River Gorge Bridge took 45 minutes. After the completion of the bridge on October 22, 1976, crossing the New River Gorge took mere seconds. The bridge is over 800 feet tall and over 3,000 feet long. The bridge was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013 thirteen years prior to the standard 50 year mark for eligibility.
The bridge has become a symbol for the state, marking the back of the West Virginia state quarter from the U.S. Mint, and as a wonder of modern engineering. At the time of its construction it was the largest project the West Virginia Department of Highways had ever completed and today draws crowds from around the country to revel at not only the bridge’s amazing structural presence but also the beautiful nature surrounding the established New River Gorge National River which has been managed by the National Park Service since 1978. From the development of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad and coal mining to natural preservation and civil engineering the New River Gorge is a testament to West Virginia’s natural beauty, industrial past, and civic achievements.