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Seven Unique Bridges

When I did a blog post on bridges two and a half years ago, I learned that there are a lot of people who like bridges, and a few who don't. This week I received an e-mail about bridges from a long-time friend and thought it would make a neat blog post. (Thanks, Dallas!) As I fact-checked the information in the e-mail, I was shocked to find pictures of every one of the seven bridges called by the names of almost every one of the other bridges in the e-mail! As best as I can determine, what I'm posting today is accurate. If not, please let me know ... just be sure that your sources are more reliable than some of the sites I saw! Ah, the bane and blessing of the Internet!

Kintai Bridge, Iwakuni, Japan

picture of bridge

The original Kintai Bridge was built in 1673 but collapsed due to flooding. The rebuilt bridge survived for more than 200 years until a typhoon destroyed it in 1950. The bridge that stands now over the Nishiki River has five wooden arches displaying an incredible amount of detail and craftsmanship. Interesting fact — originally no nails or bolts were used to build the arches, achieved by the careful fitting of the wooden parts and by building up thick girders by clamping and binding them together with metal belts. The shape and weight of the bridge made it extremely strong from the top, but incredibly weak from underneath. Flood water rushing along the river would simply lift the bridge up and wash it downstream. In 1953, the bridge was once again reconstructed using very similar techniques to the original; however, they used metal nails to increase its durability. This 1953 reconstruction, partially restored in 2001 and 2004, still stands today.

Here's a picture of the Kintai Bridge at cherry blossom time.

picture of bridge

Here's a picture of the underside of the Kintai Bridge, described above.

picture of bridge

Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge, Brasilia, Brazil

picture of bridge

The Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge completed in 2002 in Brasilia is a lesson in elegant bridge design. Inaugurated on 15 December, 2002, this bridge immediately became one more of Brasilia’s favorite landmarks. The deck of the bridge is supported by three 200-foot (61 meters) tall asymmetrical steel arches that crisscross diagonally. The 1,312 yard (1,200 meter) long bridge has a pedestrian walkway and is accessible to bicyclists and skaters. Beautiful from every angle, the bridge is particularly impressive illuminated at night.

Here's a side view of the Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge.

picture of bridge

Here's a view of the Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge at night.

picture of bridge

Rolling Bridge, London, UK

picture of bridge

Thomas Heatherwick's curling bridge, built in 2004, is a unique and ingenious addition to the Grand Union Canal system in London and won the British Structural Steel Design Award back in 2005. Unlike regular movable canal bridges, the rolling bridge curls up to form an octagon by way of hydraulic jacks to let ships pass. The bridge consists of eight triangular hinged sections. When extended, it resembles a conventional steel and timber footbridge, and is 39 feet (12 meters) long. After some repairs in 2008, the bridge was fully operational again.

Here's an animated picture I found on Wikipedia, showing how this kind of bridge curls up.

picture of bridge

Beipanjiang River Railroad Bridge, Guizhou, China

picture of bridge

Beipanjiang River Railroad Bridge in Guizhou is an enormous railway bridge that was built as part of the Guizhou-Shuibai Railway Project. Connecting two mountains over a deep ravine, at its highest point the bridge's deck sits 918 feet (280 meters) above the bottom of the ravine. Parenthetically, the bridge connects two of the country's poorest areas.

Henderson Waves, Southern Ridges, Singapore

picture of bridge

Henderson Waves is Singapore's highest pedestrian bridge and is at the Southern Ridges, a beautiful 6 mile (9 km) stretch of gardens and parks. The bridge is 900 feet (276 meters) long and is 120 feet (36 meters) above Henderson Road. From the side pictured above, it looks as if it would be horribly difficult to walk on. A view from the other side (see the picture below) reveals something else.

picture of bridge

The bridge has a wave-form made up of seven undulating curved steel ribs that alternately rise over and under its deck. The curved ribs form alcoves that function as shelters containing seats. Thousands of slats of yellow balau wood, an all-weather timber found in Southeast Asia, perfectly cut and arranged, are used in the decking. The wave-forms are lit with LED lamps from 7pm to 2am daily.

Here's a picture of one of the alcoves inside one of the waves.

picture of bridge

Here's a picture of the bridge at night.

picture of bridge

Pont Gustave Flaubert, Rouen, France

picture of bridge

This incredible vertical lift bridge is in Rouen, France, whose spans weigh 1,200 tons each but can be hoisted 180 feet (55 meters) vertically in an impressive 12 minutes. The angular lift structures at the top of each tower weigh 450 tons each. The huge vertical lift allows even the largest cruise liners to sail through. When I got the e-mail and saw this bridge, I was a little suspicious because I didn't see this bridge when we were in Rouen. Doing my research for this post, though, I learned that it wasn't there when we were last in Rouen, in 2001. The construction which began in June 2004, with the bridge's opening officially 25 September 2008, is estimated to have cost about 60 million euros. The Rouen City Council decided to name the bridge in honor of one its native sons, Gustave Flaubert, a 19th century author.

Here's a picture of a ship passing under the raised bridge.

picture of bridge

Hegigio Gorge Pipeline Bridge, Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea

picture of bridge

This world's highest pipeline bridge (at least at the time of this post) is a suspension bridge with a spans 514 yards (470 meters). It supports two pipelines — one gas, the other oil — and is used for transporting petroleum across an extremely deep gap in Papua New Guinea. Some may argue that the Hegigio span is not a true bridge since it was not built for people, but this third of a mile long web of wire and steel is a structure capable of supporting several hundred tons of weight. If this were to be officially recognized as a vehicular or pedestrian bridge, it would rocket to the top of the world's highest bridge-span, with the pipelines at an impressive height of 1,290 feet (393 meters) above the bottom of the gorge. By comparison, the current highest bridge span belongs to the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, hanging a mere 1,053 feet (321 meters) above ground level.

Two I-beams support a trolley maintenance car. Below are several pictures of structure up close, complete with several men crossing it in a maintenance car.

picture of bridge

picture of bridge

Do you like bridges? Do you have a favorite bridge that you've seen or would like to see?


"Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers." - Nikita Khrushchev

=^..^= =^..^=

"We build too many walls and not enough bridges." - Isaac Newton

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14 Comments on “Seven Unique Bridges”

  1. #1 Chris Anderson
    on Mar 4th, 2010 at 9:15 am

    This was fascinating. Loved it. I grew up about an hour from the Royal Gorge Bridge. Amazing structure.

    (Did you say “mere 1053 feet”???) 🙂

    Saw something on the news a while back about elegant bridge design, which strives to make bridges that are beautiful, not just useful. Kind of a neat concept. As long as I’m not paying for it.

  2. #2 Dallas Klemmer
    on Mar 4th, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I must confess that what I sent to you was a forward from a friend; however, I am pleased to see that I received credit in a blog before Leslie! Thanks for the acknowledgement! 🙂 I am going to have to do some web research to see if there is a video of the curling bridge actually working. It looks pretty fascinating!

  3. #3 Carol 'Ro'
    on Mar 4th, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Hi Rob! I think bridges are cool! Love to look at them but I’m not so keen on crossing them. The Ambassador bridge and the Mackinac bridge are the two that I cross the most frequently. The Chesapeake Bay bridge-tunnel stands out in my mind as the scariest though. It is not high, but long and seemingly out in the middle of the ocean! GULP!

  4. #4 Diane Heeney
    on Mar 4th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    I love the “Do Not Enter” sign on that last one. Obviously, they did not have me in mind when they decided to post it!

  5. #5 b.j.
    on Mar 4th, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I for one enjoy reading about and viewing these bridges from the safety and comfort of my chair! (shudder)

    I wish I had my photos handy. I would attach a couple copies of some photos of some bridges I took from around here. Let me rephrase that: A couple copies of some photos I took of some bridges around here! There is one that is just a couple wooden tracks with wooden slats between, no guardrail or anything. Of course, it’s not as far down as the bridges shown here….

  6. #6 Karen M.
    on Mar 4th, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Hi Rob,
    Beautiful, informative piece on bridges!! My fav is Royal Gorge Bridge. My husband, son and I traveled there a few years back. We took the vertical open cage elevator to the bottom of the gorge. While down there only about 10 min. broiling black storm clouds rolled over us. The intercom told us all to get back on the lift, which we did. Half way up to the top lightening struck the cable and we jolted to a stop. Cold rain and wind made the cage shake. People in a cage above us were crying and worrying aloud. We decided to pray out loud. Couple seconds later, the motor on top groaned and the cable came to life. We were very cold and very wet, but very thankful. Still one or our favorite memories of time spent together.

  7. #7 Michael
    on Mar 4th, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Driving over bridges can be fun as long as I’m not near the edge of the bridge. The old bridge in Charleston, SC was a real adventure when you’re coming from the Mt. Pleasant side into Charleston. I felt like I was on a roller coaster since the bridge was so narrow. There was little room for error. One slight jerk of the steering wheel and you were over the edge and in the river. I would usually white-knuckle the whole way.

    So, I guess I’m not a big fan on high bridges. In other words there’s very little chance I would ride that train in China.

  8. #8 Donna
    on Mar 5th, 2010 at 9:43 am

    My favorite bridge has always been the Sciotoville Railroad bridge which was built in 1917 (the year my grandmother was born). I found out recently that it is moderately famous — for a long time it was the “longest rivited truss bridge in the world” (its single truss stretches 1,550 feet across the Ohio river.) Of course, I always thought it was so beautiful because it meant we had arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. You could see it from their front porch (unless it was fog-bound which caused me great panic one day when I was about 5 — I thought it had fallen in!) If I knew how, I’d send you a picture of it. 🙂

  9. #9 Laura
    on Mar 5th, 2010 at 9:59 am

    One of the most interesting bridges we get to see on the trip to may parents’ house is the New River Gorge Bridge in WV – http://www.wvepostcards.com/new-river-gorge-bridge It doesn’t look like much as you go *over* it, but the view *from* it is spectacular. Seen from below, it is a beautiful piece of work. I’m glad I didn’t have to be on the construction crew, though!

  10. #10 Jewel
    on Mar 5th, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Loved this post about bridges! Our favorite is the New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville, W.Va. Thank you so much for sharing all of these great pics and info. I’m sending the link to my son who is a drafter and loves this sort of thing! 🙂

  11. #11 Jeff
    on Mar 5th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Again with the bridges! The odd thing is I re-read the original bridge piece today as I was stumbling over old items in my computer. This made me think to return to your Blague, and lo and behold…another bridge post!

    Have you see the Veteran’s Glass City Skyway bridge in Toledo? Here is a wiki post about it. We travel over it often on our way back and forth to Michigan. My kids especially love when they have it lit up at night. Often it slowly changes colors and is quite beautiful. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veterans_Glass_City_Skyway

  12. #12 Susan
    on Mar 5th, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I do NOT like bridges, but this was a very interesting read. The bridge is Brazil really is beautiful! I don’t care for driving over high bridges, but we have a couple of suspension bridges in our area that you cross on foot. I’ve tried the smaller one, but I only made it a few steps out and had to turn around and go back to firm ground – sheer panic set in!

  13. #13 Carrie
    on Mar 6th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Laura and Jewel, my father-in-law helped build the New River Gorge Bridge! Mom took a picture of Dad holding my husband as a 1yo with the partially-constructed bridge in the background and 30 years later we took a picture of my husband holding our 1yo son w/ the bridge in the background. Neat!

  14. #14 Rob
    on Mar 9th, 2010 at 10:34 am

    @all who have commented on this post – I’m sorry, but life has prevented me from replying to each of your comments as I normally do. I appreciate all the insights that have been added to this post as well as the reactions. I want to see in person the bridges for which you have posted links. Once again, sorry for this shotgun approach, but c’est la vie! 🙁