Royal Gorge Bridge and Park--A Place to Visit When in Colorado
The Royal Gorge is an awe inspiring natural creation near Cañon City, Colorado. At the base of this gorge is the Arkansas River. This gorge is well known for its natural beauty and great views. At this gorge is the Royal Gorge Park, which is run by the city; it is especially well known for its high suspension bridge--aptly named the Royal Gorge Bridge--said to be the highest in the United States. The theme park, as well as the bridge, the views and activities it offers to its visitors, is about an hour fifteen minutes drive from Colorado Springs. Words cannot do justice to the actual experience of being there.
A Bit of History
The Royal Gorge is around 50 feet at its base, several hundred feet at the top, and over 1000 feet deep (1250 ft. to be exact). This gorge was formed over several million years with what started out as a small stream, now known as the Arkansas River. This stream slowly but surely cut through the hard granite, which explains why it is extremely narrow compared to something like the Grand Canyon (18 miles wide and 5000 feet deep).
In the 1860s, the nearby Cañon City was established because of possible mineral deposits in the area. Then as a result of discoveries of lead and silver, railroad companies began to build tracks to access those areas. Because of the narrow gorge base, two railroad companies (specifically their track building crews) literally took to fighting for rights to build their tracks there. The Federal government intervened and ended the fighting which resulted in one railroad company completing the line and leasing it to the other.
In the 1890s passenger trains passed through the gorge as part of the transcontinental rail travel. Eventually other routes were discovered, and passenger trains service ended 1967.
Today, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad operates a excursion/tour trains throughout the year. The tour covers 12 miles of tracks through the gorge from Cañon City to Parkdale and return.
It wasn't until 1929 when Cañon City authorized the building of the bridge. That bridge, when completed held the record for being the highest bridge (955 feet high) in the world until 2003. And today, it is the core landmark of the Royal Gorge Park, which is run by the city.
The core of the Royal Gorge Park are its awesome views. There is nothing like this massive gorge to make one realize how seemingly insignificant we are compared to this natural beauty. To facilitate viewing this gorge from either side is the Royal Gorge Bridge. Surrounding this bridge is the theme park. In this park you can enjoy various outdoor activities appropriate for the young, the old, the adventurous, and the daring.
Below are the park highlights:
- The cliff walk. This is an overhang with breathtaking views. The park advertises this point of interest as a possible wedding venue.
- Point Sublime. According to the park web site, this point puts you at the top of the world--giving you the perfect awe-striking view of the gorge and the bridge.
- Mountain Man Encampment. This is a part of the park that tries to recreate the past by showing people--mountain men--wearing clothing and living in settings that go back to the 1800s. These mountain men are said to both entertain and educate.
- Wapiti Western Wildlife Park. Both the young and the old will have a chance to see and enjoy the native Colorado wildlife (e.g. white American Bison,Rocky Mountain Elk, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep) in their natural habitat. This is just on the south part of the park.
- Various Shows and Events in the park. Although the scenery is enough to keep you awestruck, there are various shows and events in the park to keep everyone entertained and educated. These include: entertainment at the Gazebo Theater, Plaza Theater, and even magic shows. Sometimes kids may encounter friendly farm animals which they can pet and even feed.
There are other attractions at the park which I don't see mentioned in the list of attractions at the park web site. These include:
- Zip line tour - a zip line that takes you across the gorge
- Inclined rail - This is a train the goes down/up the side of the gorge.
Outside of the park, there are other activities which can help you further enjoy and appreciate the beauty of the gorge. These include:
- Royal Gorge Route Railroad scenic train ride
- White water rafting
Impact of Recent Fire
The park is currently closed due to the recent fires which severely damaged the area; fortunately, the bridge remain intact. If you go to their web site at http://www.royalgorgebridge.com you will get a message stating they are making repairs, closed for the summer of 2013, and that they expect to be open on a limited basis in the fall of 2013, They have no anticipated full opening date at the moment, but make sure to visit the site periodically or follow them on facebook to get the latest information and updates.
Although you will not be able to enjoy the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park this year, make sure to consider visiting it in 2014, if you are ever in Colorado. It is one of the many places in the US that combines both the awesome wonder of nature, and the great feat man can achieve. It is truly a place worth visiting, appreciating, and enjoying.
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