New River Gorge Bridge celebrates 41 years since dedication

FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — On this day 41 years ago in West Virginia, the New River Gorge Bridge opened to traffic, hailed by Senator Jennings Randolph and Governor Jay Rockefeller as a link to the state’s past and future.

Video from state archives shows Rockefeller announcing that the opening of the bridge would bring West Virginians from the south and north closer together than ever before. He told a large crowd that it would give us new transportation and new lifeblood.

The opening of the bridge was highly anticipated, with three former governors (Okey Patteson, Hulett Smith and Arch Moore) coming for the dedication. Thousands showed up to be among the first to walk across it. The bridge cost $37 million to build. One man died during construction and seven others were hurt, according to records.

This weekend marked the state’s largest single-day festival as thousands gathered 876 feet above the New River for the 38th annual Bridge Day. It’s the longest steel arch bridge in the western hemisphere and the second highest bridge in the U.S.

More than 400 daredevils lined up for the oldest and largest organized base jumping event in the world. Those wanting to take things up a notch could even be catapulted from the bridge, or climb a lift if the bridge itself wasn’t enough of a rush.

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