There’s something special about bridges. Crossing one always feels like an adventure: the thrill of being suspended in air, the sense of transition and connection, and amazement at the architectural skill that makes it possible.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, bridges are a very big deal. I could write an entire post about our bridges alone, but that would leave out North America’s many other historic, beautiful, and record-breaking structures. For your river, gorge, and bay-crossing pleasure, here’s a list of amazing bridges that, ahem, spans the country.
The nation’s 10 most amazing bridges
1. Brooklyn Bridge
Between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York
Perhaps America’s most iconic bridge, the graceful and striking Brooklyn Bridge was influential in many ways. Its groundbreaking use of galvanized steel wire allowed it to stretch a record 5,989 feet across the East River, 50 percent longer than its closest rival. The diagonal cables that run down from the towers turned out to be unnecessary, but were kept for aesthetic reasons.
2. Smolen-Gulf Bridge
Between Plymouth and Ashtabula Townships, Ohio
Ashtabula County in Ohio happens to be a hotbed of covered bridges. There are 18 in all, but the star is the 613-foot-long Smolen-Gulf Bridge. Opened in 2008, this concrete, steel, and timber construction is the nation’s longest covered bridge.
3. Cornish–Windsor Covered Bridge
Between Cornish, New Hampshire, and Windsor, Vermont
If you like your covered bridges more romantic and old-fashioned, you’ll love this New England charmer. Dating back to 1866, it’s the country’s longest wooden covered bridge and the world’s longest wooden 2-span bridge.
4. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway
New Orleans, Louisiana
Want to get away from it all? Cross this remarkable bridge, and you’ll lose sight of land for a full 8 miles. The causeway currently holds the Guinness World Record for being the longest continuous bridge over water. It was considered the world’s longest bridge over open water until China’s 26-mile Jiaozhou Bay bridge opened in 2011. Some argued that 23.76 of the causeway’s 23.87 miles are over water, compared to only 16 miles of the Jiaozhou Bay bridge, and the new Guinness World Record category was created accordingly.
5. Royal Gorge Bridge
Cañon City, Colorado
Acrophobes may want to steer clear of this lofty span. Built in 1929 as a tourist attraction, it soars a dizzying 956 feet above the Arkansas River, making it the highest suspension bridge in the U.S.
6. London Bridge
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
This bridge comes by its name honestly — it used to span the River Thames in London, England. Completed in 1831, it wasn’t designed for modern-day automobile traffic. By the 1960s, London Bridge was literally falling down. When city officials put the bridge up for auction, entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch placed the winning bid and moved it to Lake Havasu City, the Arizona town he’d founded. It’s now Arizona’s second biggest tourist draw, topped only by the Grand Canyon.
7. Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
Boulder City, Nevada
Before this bridge was built, drivers on U.S. Route 93 had to navigate a treacherous road across the top of Hoover Dam. Today, the bypass is not only safer, it’s an engineering marvel of its own. At 1,905 feet long and 880 feet high, it boasts the widest arch in the western hemisphere and the highest concrete-arch bridge in the world.
8. Governor Albert D. Rosellini Bridge — Evergreen Point
Lots of bridges cross over water, but this one actually floats on top. Also called the SR 520 Bridge and the Evergreen Point Bridge, this roadway spans Lake Washington to connect Seattle with the suburb of Medina. It’s supported by huge, watertight, concrete pontoons, each approximately the length of a football field. With a floating section of 1.44 miles, it’s the world’s longest floating bridge. The original bridge opened in 1963, and a replacement bridge is currently being built.
9. Bixby Creek Bridge
Big Sur, California
Arguably one of the most recognizable symbols of the rugged West Coast, this magnificent structure was built by the Works Progress Administration in 1932. Rising 260 feet above the rocky shoreline, it’s still one of the highest single-span arch bridges on earth. Fittingly, when this portion of State Route 1 was officially designated as California’s first scenic highway in 1965, the dedication ceremony was held here.
10. Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, California
I admit, I’m biased. But no list of iconic U.S. bridges could leave out the Golden Gate. When it comes to fame, this bridge is right up there with the Brooklyn Bridge, gracing innumerable postcards and vacation snapshots. When it opened in 1937, the bridge’s 4,200-foot suspension span was the world’s longest, a record it kept until 1964. The name Golden Gate refers to the entrance to the San Francisco Bay, not the bridge’s color. The bridge is painted “International Orange” to increase its visibility in the fog. (The U.S. Navy pushed to have it painted in yellow and black stripes — fortunately, that plan was overruled.)
Has this post inspired you to set out for a spring road trip? Before you go, compile a list of amazing roadside attractions, make sure your car’s emergency kit is stocked, and don’t leave home without the right car insurance coverage.