Kinzua: We Look Into The Abyss

Achievement: #15. Kinzua Bridge

While we love to travel, we can’t always get too far from the city. But luckily for us, there are a ton of neat places just a few hours’ drive from the ‘Burgh. One of those places is the Allegheny National Forest, just under 3 hours north of the city.

There’s a ton of great hiking, boating and kayaking, and of course the gorgeous Rimrock Overlook. But the one place we’ve somehow never visited in all the years we’ve been going to the ANF is the famous Kinzua Bridge.

Kinzua Bridge
The Kinzua Bridge is a railroad bridge in its own state park. It was used for freight traffic up until the late 1950s, and was used for excursion trains starting in the late 1980s.

Kinzua Bridge
But in late 2002, engineers identified structural issues in the bridge and closed it to all traffic, including pedestrians.

Kinzua Bridge
That decision could not have been any more timely: on July 21, 2003, an F1 tornado hit the side of the bridge. It lifted 11 of the bridge’s towers into the air and threw them down on the ground. (Luckily, the workers who were in the process of repairing the bridge had abandoned their work for the day when the storms started rolling in, so no one was present to be hurt.)

Kinzua Bridge
In the years following the tornado, the remaining structure was turned into a viaduct with an observation station at the end. There is a hiking trail which leads down to the fallen towers, as well as a nice picnic area at the top of the park.

Kinzua Bridge
The bridge is strictly open to pedestrians now, although they’ve left the original railroad tracks in place.

Kinzua Bridge
The planks on the walking aisles are quite close together, but in the middle, there are pretty sizable gaps. Needless to say, I was freaking the hell out when we tried to cross over the tracks. You could lose a flip flop down there!

Kinzua Bridge
At the end of the viaduct, you can walk out onto a glass floor and see beneath you. This is actually not *quite* as scary as walking over the railroad tracks, but still pretty terrifying if you’re me. If you’re all the little kids who were there when we were, it’s not scary at all. I am a wuss about certain things.

Kinzua Bridge
You can see the wreckage from all angles on the bridge, but nothing prepares you for getting up to the end of the observation deck.

Kinzua Bridge
The mangled steel is so creepy and impressive. Just imagining the force of the tornado that blew through this park and ripped those steel towers out of the ground gives you chills. I love that they’ve just left the towers there. The fact that the wind just destroyed this steel… it blows your mind.

Kinzua Bridge
You can see the final remaining tower at the opposite end. I imagine that the view while crossing this bridge on a train would have been such an impressive sight.

If you ever take a trip up into the Allegheny National Forest, Michael and I highly suggest that you make a stop at the Kinzua Bridge. It’s well worth the detour!

5 Comments

Filed under #15, #15-14, history, road trip, trains, travel

5 Responses to Kinzua: We Look Into The Abyss

  1. Great post, and I love the pictures! I visited the Kinzua Bridge several times before 2002, but haven’t been back since then. Crossing the bridge as a kid was always equal parts terrifying and thrilling. Reading your post makes me want to go back again!

    • steelcityfox

      I definitely recommend checking it out if you ever find yourself back in this half of the country again. Really takes your breath away at the end of the overlook where there’s just these giant hunks of mangled steel. I’m planning to go back in the fall again to see it with the foliage (I work up in Warren and Bradford a lot, so not too far).

  2. Woubbie

    Why am I suddenly hearing “Stand By Me” playing on an old AM radio station? *shudders* Only thing creepier than that is an abandoned roller coaster framework. *shivers*

    • steelcityfox

      Oh man, one of these years, we’re going to have ‘visit an abandoned amusement park’ on our list. I LOVE creepy things that have let nature just take over like that!

  3. For creepy amusement parks, you need go no further than Conneaut. Walking through the mouth of the giant eyeless clown into Kiddieland is about as Stephen King as it gets!

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