October 22, 1977: New River Gorge Bridge Dedicated
On October 22, 1977, the New River Gorge Bridge was dedicated in Fayette County before a crowd of 30,000. Throughout history, transportation across the rugged gorge has been a challenge. A bridge built at Fayette Station in 1889 helped considerably. But still, a drive down and back up the winding Fayette Station Road took about 45 minutes. The New River Gorge Bridge would change everything.
Construction work on the span began in 1973. When it was dedicated four years later, the New River Gorge Bridge would shatter several engineering records. Its 1,700-foot arch made it the longest single-span arch bridge in the world. And, at 876 feet above the New River, it was the highest automobile bridge in the world. Today, it is still the longest steel span in the Western Hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.
The Fayette County bridge has become one of West Virginia’s most recognizable landmarks and was featured on the state quarter. Most significantly, though, it reduced the driving time across the gorge, making travel easier and turning the region’s whitewater-rafting business into a multimillion-dollar industry.