The act of driving over a bridge is inherently scary. You’re driving thousands of pounds of metal over a thin man-made sliver, spanning spaces that aren’t naturally meant to be crossed. Every trip over a bridge requires trusting the builder (usually the lowest bidder), the maintenance crew (and the sequester-era maintenance budget), the last person who fixed your brakes, and, most horrifying of all, those other drivers around you. Yes, we know — try not to think about it.
But some bridges seem to go the extra mile just to be scarier. In some cases, literally — like the 25 miles of road over an alligator infested lake in Louisiana. Some bridges take fear to new heights, like one in Colorado that could fit many of the country’s tallest skyscrapers beneath its bearings. There’s a bridge that, for some reason, was built directly in the path of hurricane-force winds and another that is covered by fog more often than not. There are epic battles for right of way, killer scenery, and let us not forget those pesky other bridge dwellers: ghosts.
There are so many ways to get freaked out when driving on a bridge, but none will give you the shivers as much as these.
Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado
Royal Gorge Bridge — do you dare? (Photo: aspidoscelis/Flickr)
The country’s highest suspension bridge, Colorado’s Royal Gorge Bridge is located a staggering 90 stories over the Arkansas River — three times the height of the Statue of Liberty. If that doesn’t make you queasy, then jumping on the gigantic swing perched at the end of the bridge probably will. Called the Royal Rush Skycoaster, the 100-feet tall human pendulum swings people 1,200 feet out and over the river. Not scared yet? Try the terrifying Royal Gorge Bridge zip line. And then there’s the threat of wildfire; erratic flames damaged the bridge and some of the surrounding attractions in June 2013 (no one was hurt, but 1,200 visitors were evacuated along the 950-foot-tall cliffs). The bridge and its attractions reopened to the public by January 2014.
Mackinac Bridge, Michigan
The terrifyingly windy Mackinac Bridge (Photo: master phillip/Flickr)
The gale force winds that sweep over Mackinac Bridge — a staggeringly long five-mile suspension bridge connecting Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas — can reach up to 79 miles per hour and have been so powerful that in 2013, they nearly blasted semi tractor trailers into the Mackinac strait, 200-feet below. Crossing the bridge is so scary that the Mackinac Bridge Authority will drive your car over it for you upon request. According to ABC News, between 1,200 and 1,400 of these calls are made every year (about three or four a day). But don’t worry, the bridge closes if the winds go over 65 mph and only two cars have ever fallen off.
Seven Mile Bridge, Florida
A stretch of Florida’s Seven Mile Bridge, on the Overseas Highway (Photo: Ben Lawson/Flickr)
Thalassophobia is the fear of the sea. Those who suffer this phobia probably shouldn’t drive the Overseas Highway, especially along the Seven Mile Bridge, a two-lane road that stretches out over open sea and connects a few of Florida’s Lower Keys. With 65 feet between asphalt and ocean, there’s not much to worry about in the way of waves getting you, but the views are so spectacular (especially during sunrise and sunset) that it’s easy to become distracted from the task of keeping your car within the lines.
Brooklyn Bridge, New York
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. (Photo: caitkennedy/Flickr)
It’s the bridge everyone wants to stroll across when they visit New York because it is so picturesque. But tourists are rarely warned that the walking path on the Brooklyn Bridge is narrow and shared by the city’s biking community, a possessive and bitter lot, who use this overpass for commuting. Even though it is crowded by 4,000 walkers and 3,100 cyclists a day, you probably won’t fall off this bridge, but chances of having a biker call you profane words and/or being struck by a bicycle are high.
Pulaski Skyway, New Jersey
A surprisingly scenic portion of the Pulaski Skyway (Photo: dotpolka/Flickr)
Opened in 1932, the decrepit Pulaski Skyway is one of the most heavily trafficked bridges in the New York metropolitan area. The lanes are ridiculously slender, there’s no shoulder, direction signs pop up quickly and sporadically, and it is punctuated by a high number of sharp turning exits and entrance ramps that force quick merging. Add to that a rusting steel infrastructure and it’s a wonder how the bridge is still standing. Thankfully, it is currently undergoing rehabilitation.
Deception Pass Bridge, Washington
They don’t call it the Deception Pass Bridge for nothing. (Photo: ScottElliottSmithson/Flickr)
Fog and bridges mix about as well as drinking and driving, yet visibility is almost constantly mired in mist on the Deception Pass Bridge. This two-lane, 1,486-feet long cantilevered, arch bridge was built 180 feet high. It has been the main connective artery between Whidbey Island and Fidalgo Island since 1932.
Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, Louisiana
The never-ending Lake Pontchartrain Causeway (Photo: Corbis)
At just under 25 miles, the length of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the equivalent of driving from Pasadena, California to Santa Monica Beach. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the longest bridge over water (continuous) in the world, and you’ve got only seven chances to turn around via crossover once you start the ride.
Cape William Moore Bridge, Alaska
Cape William Moore Bridge, atop an earthquake fault (Photo: jkc916/Flickr)
Driving over the Cape William Moore Bridge will test your faith in engineering. There’s nothing particularly scary about it on the surface, but know that it passes directly over an active earthquake fault. The bridge has been designed to withstand any quakes, which means only one end of the bridge has been anchored, so when the land moves, it doesn’t get torn apart.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Virginia
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which dips beneath the water (Photo: Corbis)
Driving over a bridge is nerve racking enough when it’s above the water, so how about when one periodically takes a dip underneath? Sound like an amusement ride? Nope, just the commute on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel from Virginia’s rural Eastern Shore to the west of the state. Try not to think about the Chesapeake Bay overflowing into one of the two mile-long tunnels that appear dip directly into the water and divide this 20-mile long trestle bridge.
Gold Brook Covered Bridge (Emily’s Bridge), Vermont
Gold Brook Covered Bridge, a.k.a. Emily’s Bridge (Photo: Corbis)
New England is still dotted with the quaint covered bridges that were popular until the mid-1800s. There are still 750 of them in existence including the Gold Brook Covered Bridge, which is said to have its own ghost. She’s called Emily and is alleged to have killed herself on the bridge in the 1920s. Visitors to the bridge claim to hear her ghastly screams and footsteps and see apparitions. Some even say she even scratches up cars that in the bridge’s parking lot.
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