We have done quite a few amusing and exciting things while traveling, but sometimes we forget to do things in our own backyard, state, etc. Recently we had the opportunity to do something we have wanted to do since moving to Colorado 10 years ago. We finally made it to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City. It was a spectacular experience in more ways than one. So spectacular in fact, that it is going to take two posts to share our visit. Here is part 1.
We had been in Pagosa Springs the weekend before our visit, and getting to Canon City was also an adventure. The area is so beautiful and we saw many types of animals as we made our way into the city. On the morning of our visit, we stopped in the first parking lot and saw our first view of the bridge. I love bridges and couldn’t wait to get inside and get a better look. It is truly amazing, even from a distance.
We made our way into the Visitor Center, and started our adventure. Several people had suggested that we take the Aerial Gondola over to the south side of the Royal Gorge, as it is downhill from there to get to the bridge. Happily we got on one of the gondolas (included with admission) and got our first real look at the Gorge and the Arkansas River below.
The gondolas glide 2,200 feet across the Gorge, over 1,200 feet above the Arkansas River, while basking in 360° views of the Gorge, Bridge, Park and the breathtaking Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It is beautiful and deep, lol. It’s a very short ride, and before we knew it, we were on the other side. Of course I had to stop and take a few pictures before we decided what we would do next on our adventure.
There is so much to see and do, so we took a few minutes to look at the park map. Besides the bridge itself, there is the Cloudscraper by Ziprider (additional charge), the Plaza Theater, Historical Expo, Tommy Knocker Playland, the Entertainment Stage, Royal Rush Skycoaster (additional charge), Elk Park Amphitheater, and Point Sublime. We had tickets for the Zip line and Skycoaster, so we decided to start our day with a little adrenaline kick and did the zip line. I was a little nervous as I had never done zip lining before, but it was incredible!
We flew through the air on the highest zip line in North America, 1200 feet above the roaring Arkansas River. I was covering my mouth most of the time because it was so windy and hard to breathe, lol. But it was breathtaking (ha-ha) and I was ready to do it again. The end was a little rough, but that is because of their state of the art braking system. Listen to the advice of the workers, and you will be fine
I was disappointed that it went so fast, but the views were spectacular. The zip line takes you back to the visitor center where we walked around the store, grabbed a drink, and checked out the Water Clock. Apparently it is one of the world’s rarest clocks. After we took a few more pictures we decided what to do next. We jumped back on the gondola ride and headed over to the Plaza Theater to watch their short video about the tale of the history of the Royal Gorge, fun facts, scenery surrounding the park, as well as the fire that destroyed most of the park.
On June 11, 2013, most of the park structures on both sides of the Royal Gorge were devastated by a man-made wildfire. The fire jumped from the south to the north side of the gorge just west of the bridge and burned 3,218 acres of which 2,156 acres was park property, over the next four days until it was contained. The bridge itself sustained only minimal damage with approximately 100 wooden deck planks of 1292 total planks requiring replacement on the south side.
However, 48 of the park's 52 buildings were destroyed. No visitors, park employees or any animals in the wildlife park were injured or killed by the fire. The funicular was severely damaged and the aerial tram was destroyed. Park executives announced on June 13 that the bridge would be repaired and the park rebuilt. Rebuilding began about a week after the fire and demolition of all damaged structures took about five months.
The new visitor center's groundbreaking ceremony was on January 31, 2014. This is the first part of our day at the amazing Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City. Come back soon for Part 2 of our visit, which includes a video of us riding the Skycoaster. Such a thrilling and exciting ride.