15 American Bridges Worthy Of Your Driving Bucket List
"A bridge is a poem stretched across a river, a symphony of stone and steel." -- David B. Steinman, world-renowned bridge builder-slash-poet
These 15 bridges are just a few of the very finest that America has to offer. Rising above valleys and rivers, they are all towering examples of man’s ability to overcome nature's obstacles. You’ve undoubtedly heard of most of them, but consider the sheer amount of human willpower that went into building them and the historical impact they've had, and you’ll see why driving over each and every one, at some point in your life, deserves a spot on your bucket list.
1. London Bridge
Lake Havasu, Arizona
London Bridge is simultaneously one of the most impressive and most confusing bridges anywhere in the world. Here's the deal: the London Bridge from the nursery rhyme, located on the River Thames, fell down (obviously). In 1831, a new London Bridge was built to replace it. Then, 130 years later, it was bought by an American oil tycoon, dismantled brick-by-brick, and relocated to Lake Havasu...thereby lending its historical presence to spring brake revelers.
2. Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
Chesapeake Bay, Virginia
If necessity is the mother of invention, then she's certainly proud of this one. To devise the best bridge for traffic heading out of Virginia Beach, engineers in the 1950s had to get creative so as not to disrupt shipping traffic. High bridges were ruled out, ostensibly due to concerns from the US Navy about a major base being blocked in the event of a bridge collapse. The solution? A series of low-profile bridges with tunnels that dive under the bay. The end result is 23 miles of American engineering excellence born from a bit of Cold War paranoia...and lots and lots of beauty.
3. Royal Gorge Bridge
Near Cañon City, Colorado
Built over 900 feet above the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge Bridge isn't the highest vehicular bridge in the world...sadly, it lost that title in the early 2000s after holding it since 1929. The spectacular views are as beautiful as they are deadly, and have been the backdrop of several high-profile stunts.
Fun side note: if your vision's good enough, you can see a railroad at the bottom of the gorge that was built during a silver rush. The right to build it was so sought after, rival railroad companies actually formed small armies of outlaws like Doc Holliday, sabotaging each other's efforts with dynamite in what became known as the Colorado Railroad War.
4. Rainbow Bridge
This pushes the limits of a US bridge, since it literally is a border crossing. It's worth making sure you've got your passport on hand, though, since, well, it's Niagara Falls. Mother nature doesn't often provide better backdrops.
5. The Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, California
Come now, did you think this wasn't going to be here? It's a landmark, a symbol of an era, and unlike other bridges that have just one or two photogenic angles, the GGB lends itself to so many different poses that a blind man with a disposable camera can pass for Ansel Adams. It's no secret that quite a few workers lost their lives during construction, but far less known is the so-called Halfway to Hell Club: the group of 19 workers who fell off the bridge, and lived.
6. The Brooklyn Bridge
New York, New York
The Brooklyn Bridge is more than just one of NYC's many defining landmarks. Building the towers was so difficult that 600 workers descended daily in caissons to the depths of the river to work on their foundation—and over 100 of them wound up with decompression sickness. That lead to the first coining of the term Caisson's Disease, then to the more descriptive "the bends." The bridge has been the stage for everything from terror attacks to presidential parades, and even the legendary Jumbo walked across it shortly after it opened to prove the bridge's strength.
As an odd historical footnote, the bridge's designer, John A. Roebling studied philosophy under Hegel. If the name Roebling sounds familiar to motorsport fans, Roebling Road in Georgia was built by John's great grandson.
7. Seven Mile Bridge
It's hard to say what's more impressive: the bizarre, seemingly endless sensation of driving in the middle of the ocean, the fact that Seven Mile Bridge is really just one small part of the 113 mile Overseas Highway connecting the Keys to Miami, or the fact that it started out as a rail line over a hundred years ago. The original rail line was converted to a highway—awesomely using the rail ties as guardrails—before the current iteration replaced it.
8. The Tacoma Narrows Bridges
You've probably heard of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge -- it's the one nicknamed "Galloping Gertie" for its freakish wobble and dramatic collapse caught on film in 1940. Gertie's replacement went up after WWII, and now a third bridge sits alongside it to help alleviate traffic. On a clear day, the views of Mt. Rainier as you're crossing Puget Sound are spectacular... almost as impressive as the bridges themselves.
9. Sunshine Skyway Bridge
Tampa Bay, Florida
If you're starting to notice a theme here, it's that many of the must-drive bridges in the US are actually second or third iterations. Stylistically, the original SSB was nice, but hardly Earth shattering in its beauty. The addition of a second bridge to add lanes helped immensely in the beauty department, until a freighter ship slammed into a pier in one of the worst bridge disasters in American history. The long-term result? This picturesque beauty, that serves as the pride of Tampa Bay.
10. Bixby Creek Bridge
Big Sur, California
The postcard image for the Pacific Coast Highway, the bridge over Bixby Creek is actually only a little over 700 feet long, but the beauty is well off the charts. If you've driven over it, you already know that the roads surrounding Bixby Bridge are literally carved out of the hills of the California coast—and that they're some of America's finest.
11. Roseman Bridge
Madison County, Iowa
There are a lot of old and beautifully covered bridges out there, and architecturally speaking, Roseman isn't all that different from most of them. On the other hand, it's literally one of the bridges of Madison County that inspired the book and movie, so you automatically get romance bonus points for driving your girl across it.
12. Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
Known to locals as the Bay Bridge, this is regularly atop the list of scariest bridges -- thanks to the high elevation required to clear shipping vessels, high winds, and the expansive view you get (some say this is due to low guardrails, but they're no lower than the guardrails on normal highway overpasses). With the exception of its namesake geography, there is absolutely zero relationship between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (higher up on this list).
13. Mackinac Bridge
The man behind the Mackinac Bridge, David B. Steinman, heavily criticized the plans for the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge -- in fact, he correctly predicted its demise. That led him to overbuild the Mackinac Bridge in a serious way. He paid so much attention to the aerodynamics that the majority of road is actually steel grating, to allow air to pass through it. According to the state of Michigan, the critical windspeed velocity is infinity. In other words, no amount of wind will topple it.
Word to the wise: the bridge won't get blown over, but cars can. There's some controversy surrounding the exact circumstances, but in 1989, a Yugo flew over the railing and into the river 150 feet below.
14. Mike O'Callaghan--Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge
Lake Mead, Arizona and Nevada
With all due respect to the men for which it's named, the Hoover Dam Bypass is a much easier name. The highway over Hoover Dam isn't up to the task of handling modern traffic, so the bridge really was necessary -- not just a super-fancy way to show off one of the greatest manmade "natural" views this country has ever produced. The drop down is over 900 ft, second only to the Royal Gorge in the US, and that arch is actually the world's highest concrete arch.
15. Penobscot Narrows Bridge
Stockton Springs, Maine
At first blush, this is just a very nice suspension bridge, built to replace the aging bridge you see behind it (which has since been demolished). But look closely at the ground from where this photo was taken. You're standing in Fort Knox. It's a sleek and beautiful bridge, with great scenery and one of the most legendary historical sites in the country; there's really not anything to dislike here.
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