Many of us cross pedestrian bridges all the time without giving them any thought. Maybe it’s a wooden bridge on the nature trail in your neighborhood park, or some other mundane crossing. Then there are those rare footbridges that demand you take notice. We’ve collected a few notable pedestrian bridges from around the U.S., a couple designed by world-class architects, others impressive concrete structures built long ago. All are awe-inspiring sights well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
5. BP Pedestrian Bridge (Chicago)
This structure connects Maggie Daley and Millennium parks in Chicago’s Loop neighborhood. The stainless steel parapets and sweeping curves give an otherwise ordinary wooden-plank bridge a futuristic appearance. Designed by award-winning architect Frank Gehry, it opened in 2004.
4. Big Dam Bridge, Little Rock, Arkansas
You have to love the name. A few years ago, as local business and political leaders tried to figure out how to fund the project, Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines walked into a planning meeting and declared, “We are going to build that dam bridge.” Everyone loved the double entendre, and the name stuck when the structure opened in 2006. The Big Dam Bridge is certainly big, towering 30 feet over the Murray Dam on the Arkansas River. With a total length of 4,226 feet, it’s the longest purpose-built pedestrian bridge in North America.
3. Mile-High Swinging Bridge, Linville, N.C.
Located at exactly 5,280 feet above sea level — hence the name — this 228-foot suspension footbridge crosses an 80-foot chasm. Opened in 1952 and rebuilt in 1999, it offers stunning views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains when the weather is clear. However, it’s often closed for inclement weather, as Grandfather Mountain sees some of the most extreme weather conditions in the U.S. Wind speeds of 100 mph or higher here are not unusual. If you’re new to North Carolina, or just passing through the area, Grandfather Mountain is a great kid-friendly destination with a nature theme.
2. Sundial Bridge, Redding, California
Opened in 2004, this aptly-named structure crosses the Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The Sundial Bridge’s 217-foot pylon points due north at a cantilevered angle; it casts a shadow on a metal plate, allowing it to serve as a giant sundial. The glass-decked bridge is even more visually striking at night, glowing in aquamarine colors. Spanish designer Santiago Calatrava is a legend in the field of structural architecture and engineering, having designed dozens of other well-known structures around the world, including the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
1. Benson Footbridge, Multnomah Falls, Oregon
This 45-foot concrete arch bridge is situated between the upper and lower sections of the picturesque Multnomah Falls, which plunge a total of 620 feet. Built in 1914, it crosses about 105 feet above the lower falls. It’s located along the historic Columbia River Highway, one of the most scenic drives in the United States. The falls can be reached via a short walk from a nearby parking area.
One More: Royal Gorge Bridge, Canon City, Colorado
Although it is open to vehicles, most people prefer to walk across. It’s certainly the best way to check out the 955-foot drop to the Arkansas River, making it the highest bridge in the United States. Built in 1929 and heavily renovated in the 1980s, it is the centerpiece of a theme park.
And Another: Bridge to Nowhere, San Gabriel Mountains, California
There are a number of so-called “Bridges to Nowhere” scattered around the U.S. One of the most interesting such structures is in the San Gabriel Mountains. Built in 1936, plans called for this arch bridge to be part of a mountain road, but builders nixed the project when a flood washed out the roadbed. Today, it’s a popular destination for hikers in the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, although it takes a tough 10-mile round-trip hike to get there.