On the outskirts of the Allegheny National Forest in rural Pennsylvania is the most surprising wonder. The Kinzua Sky Walk is a restored piece of amazing history. Towering 224 feet over the Kinzua Gorge in the Kinzua Bridge State Park, this skywalk provides the most fabulous views of this area! So what happened to the original Kinzua Viaduct named “the eighth wonder of the world” from which this sky walk originated?
Built in 1882, the original viaduct was, for a short time, the longest and tallest viaduct in the world at 301 feet high and 2,053 feet across made completely of iron and then rebuilt of steel. The viaduct, which was used to haul coal, oil and timber, needed to be made stronger to handle the heavier loads. So, in 1900 they began to replace the iron columns with steel ones. When completed it was able to handle the heavier demands. Unfortunately, there was a flaw in the reconstruction that would not be realized until it was too late.
In 2003, a tornado ripped through the gorge hitting the viaduct right in the middle. The tornado took out the 20 middle towers leaving 6 towers at the south end and only three at the north end. So, why did the viaduct fail? The anchor bolts and couplings that held the new columns to the old anchor blocks were never replaced. This would prove to be the fatal flaw! This once thriving viaduct became a heap of twisted metal in less than one minute.
The state made the decision that it would be too costly to rebuild. In 2011, the remaining south end of the towers was repurposed into the Kinzua Sky Walk so visitors could see first hand what the forces of nature can do and learn the history of this engineering marvel. The Sky Walk includes a glass floor at the end of the walk and trails below so you can walk up close and through the destroyed columns still left in place.
The visitor center will guide you through the complete history of the building and rebuilding of the viaduct, the tornado strike, and the now Sky Walk, with many interactive exhibits, making this an ideal place to bring the kids. The state park is also a great place for picnics and hiking trails to round out your visit to the Kinzua Sky Walk. Best of all, it’s free!
As beautiful as the gorge is, I can imagine how beautiful these views would be during the fall season with the leaves changing colors.
***** For all motorcycle enthusiasts, this makes for a super scenic ride in just about any direction you come in from. Take time to go through the Allegheny Forest!
**** The Kinzua Bridge State Park is located at: 296 Viaduct Road, Mt Jewett, Pa 16740.