Saturday was the first time that our friends, Cathy and “Ducky”, had visited Kinzua Bridge State Park. When I discovered that my friends had not seen Kinzua Bridge prior to the tornado strike, I told them that I would write a blog post containing details and photographs of previous visits that Bob and I have made to the park.
Kinzua Bridge State Park (“B” marks the spot in the map shown above) is located in Pennsylvania four miles north of U.S. Route 6 at Mt. Jewett on State Route 3011. The park contains 329 acres in McKean County and features the remnants of a railroad bridge (viaduct) that had been designated as a National Engineering Landmark. When Kinzua Bridge was built in 1881, it was the world’s highest and longest railroad bridge at 301 feet tall and 2,053 feet long.
I visited Kinzua Bridge State Park for the first time, with Bob, in May 1998. We visited the park once again in October 1998.
In September 2001 Bob and I visited Kinzua Bridge State Park with our exchange student from Germany.
In August 2002 an engineering inspection of the viaduct revealed potential problems with the structural integrity of the supporting piers, so the viaduct was closed to all access. Therefore, when Bob and I visited the park in October 2002 with Leo, our exchange student from Brazil, we were not allowed to walk across the viaduct or hike below it. We could, though, still view the bridge from the observation deck adjacent to the bridge.
On July 21, 2003 an F1 tornado caused the center section of the Kinzua Bridge to collapse. Kinzua Bridge State Park was closed so that cleanup and damage assessment could take place. The park was reopened on August 1, 2003. Bob and I visited Kinzua Bridge State Park on June 20, 2004 — the first time that I had been to the park since the collapse of the bridge almost 1 year ago. I was in awe of the damage done by the tornado and the amount of cleanup that still needed to be done.
We returned to the park in July 2005 with Bob’s sister and her husband. The damage caused by the tornado was still very much in evidence.
It was a few years later when we next visited Kinzua Bridge State Park. In June 2011 we returned to the park once again, accompanied by our Canadian friends Tom and Heather.
It had been 8 years since Kinzua Bridge had been blown down by a tornado. Remnants of the bridge still lied on the forest floor. We were not able to walk on the bridge, as restoration was taking place. We didn’t realize it at the time; however, the restoration culminated in the creation of the Kinzua Bridge Skywalk. A grand opening of the Skywalk was held on September 15, 2011.
Bob and I visited Kinzua Bridge State Park in October 2011 for the first time after the Kinzua Bridge Skywalk was completed. The Skywalk, which is built on six original towers, leads to a 225-foot high observation deck that gives a lofty view of the Kinzua Gorge. A partial glass floor in the deck allows one to look into the steel structure of the bridge, a view that takes one’s breath away. Remnants of the bridge blown over by the tornado remain at the bottom of the gorge for visitors to look at from the deck railings.
In March 2012 I visited Kinzua Bridge State Park with Raphael, a Brazilian boy who lived with us as an exchange student for 10 months during the 2004-2005 school year.
Our next visit to Kinzua Bridge State Park was on Saturday with Cathy and “Ducky”, which I wrote about in my previous blog post. I am certain it will not be our last visit to the park!