Kinzua State Park and Sky Bridge

Kinzua State Park is the location of a fascinating and failed railroad viaduct / bridge that spanned the Kinzua Creek in McKean County, PA.  The original bridge was 2,053 feet long (625m) and was 301 feet (91m) tall.  When you see the structure you can\’t help but imagine what it was like to cross this thin and ridiculously tall bridge on a train!  The cast iron bridge famously collapsed when a tornado ripped down the ridge and collapsed the structure before corrective repairs could be finished on the supporting structures.

Brief History

The bridge was built in 1882 and was billed as the \’Eight Wonder of the World\’ for being the world\’s longest and highest rail viaduct.  The Kinzua Viaduct held the record for the world\’s tallest railroad bridge for two years, and it was dismantled and rebuilt to help support heavier train loads. The bridge was in the midst of restoration and reinforcement of corroded anchor bolts in 2002. Sadly, a tornado struck the bridge in 2003 before the reinforcement efforts could be completed.  A large section of the bridge collapsed and remains collapsed to this day.  At the time of the collapse, the bridge was the fourth tallest bridge in the United States.

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Kinzua State Park and the Sky Bridge

The bridge and surrounding land was purchased and made into a state park during the 1960s, and in the following years the park was further developed into the tourist destination it is today. I visited the site in late fall / early winter, and the trails and sky bridge were open.  I was eager to explore the Sky Bridge! Walking on the bridge really puts the height into a REAL focal point.  You definitely appreciate the scale that this bridge achieved in height alone. And I was deeply grateful for the sturdy fences that border the bridge\’s walkway.

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As I walked the length of the Sky Bridge, you feel like you are walking out into the sky itself. You can see the opposing hillside easily, but the ground keeps dropping further and further away from you and you are quickly surrounded by nothing but air.

Finally, you make it to the end of the sky bridge and the park installed large glass blocks that are meant to give you a birds-eye view of the drop below.  But the glass was a bit foggy from scuff marks and didn\’t give me the best view. However, there was plenty of fencing to lean against and stare over into the abyss.

The bridge spans a deep ravine with a modest stream of water at the bottom. There are trails that will take you down to the base of the ravine.  But the big attraction is the original remaining railroad structure that was converted to a walkway into the empty space that is the Sky Bridge.  If you have a healthy fear of heights, this Sky Bridge might be a challenge for you! But do not fret, there are sturdy walls along the entire walkway that will allow you feel that you are not on the edge.

BUT – OH, THE VIEWS!

The vista Kinzua Sky Bridge offers is one of the best I\’ve ever seen.  You must visit this location and experience the scenery for yourself.

You will have a commanding view of the region. Vistas. American majesty.  I could go on, but I think you get the idea.  Get yourself to Kinzua and soak up the scenery.  It is worth the drive to experience the wind funneling down the ravine and reminding you what what this bridge had to withstand while heavy trains crossed the ravine.  Watch birds circling not-that-far-above-you from Sky Bridge height!  Look at tiny dots of humans walking the trail down into the ravine.

You will not regret the views this Sky Bridge gives you. It was awe inspiring – even during the scarcity of  winter.  I plan to stop by anytime I\’m near the area and capture different time(s) and seasons.  I can only imagine the crowds that must visit this site during the peak of fall foliage.  (and I might be one of the Autumn crowd soon!)

Visitor Center

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There is a visitor center and museum on site that gives you the history and details of the railroad, industry, and state park.  You\’ll find a spattering of exhibits and some rather impressive bronze statues. Some of the services were closed due to Covid. But I was traveling during the cold winter months (off season), so I wasn\’t expecting anything to be open.  But the museum was open as were the facilities, for which I was grateful.

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I was surprised to see the life sized bronze statues mixed in with various exhibits.  These life-size statues are impressive and speak to the pride the local community has for the Kinzua Viaduct.  There are also kid-friendly exhibits dedicated to the local wildlife.  I confess, I\’m still a kid-at-heart and still have to touch all the things! Except recently it has shifted from *touch* *touch* to: *touch* **hand sanitizer** *touch*  **hand sanitizer**

Thinks to Know

After exploring the museum, you can exit the back of the Visitor center onto a well maintained pathway that is very wheelchair friendly.

If you do not light great heights and feel the Sky Bridge will be too much for you, there is a lower outlook location.  But this is not wheelchair friendly as you must navigate several steps. The lower overlook gives you a grand view of the Sky Bridge itself as well as the ravine.

Park Trails

If the steep, rough ravine trail is too much for you to tackle, there are other fairly level trails located in the park that I found very enjoyable. I obviously had to geocache while in the park, so I strolled the trail in order to find the geocaches and enjoy my time here.