As a terra firma guy who enjoys keeping his heart rate steady and his feet on the ground, we joined good friends in Fayetteville, West Virginia for Bridge Day, a celebration that involves the longest span bridge in the world – and people who find it exhilarating to jump or rope off it. What?
Why do people jump off of an 876 foot high bridge? Excellent question; I will not even attempt to answer. The jumpers are called BASE jumpers – which stands for Building, Antenna, Span and Earth. I would be a contender if B stood for Bed. These extreme jumpers use parachutes that are specifically designed for rapid deployment. Not rapid enough for me.
Anyway, we trekked to Fayetteville and arrived the day before, which gave us the opportunity to explore the area and terrain where the jumpers and repellers would perform. Did I mention the bridge is almost 900 feet high? The bridge is the longest single-arch steel span bridge in the world.
The bridge spans the New River, which in this gorge is populated with whitewater rapids. Just above the bridge are the Class IV Fayette Station Rapids (you can see kayakers navigating – or not, through these wild rapids), and just below the bridge are the Flea Flicker Rapids. So for jumpers it behooves them to make it to dry ground! The river, by the way, is considered one of the oldest rivers in North America. We viewed the Fayette Station Rapids and some kayakers the day before to get a view of the terrain. Yikes.
We watched the jumpers from the bridge, and were treated to views of them leaping off the platform in the middle of the bridge, a pretty quick free fall of some 600-700 feet (I would guess), deployment of the chutes, and then navigation over the fast flowing river to (hopefully) the shore. From there, the jumpers would repack their gear and could jump again as many times as time allowed for this one-day-per-year event.
In addition to the jumpers, there were repellers who would repel from the bridge to the river below. I can only imagine the intimidation of repelling down a 900-foot rope to the river below. One must be fairly trusting of the rope – there is no Plan B if the rope were to fail. Yikes.
To view this event there is a fair amount of walking required, and getting there early in the day clearly provided us benefits to viewing and enjoyment. There are plenty of facilities and vendors providing food, snacks and bling.
While I wouldn’t consider in a billion years doing this, we had a most fabulous time watching!