When West Virginia’s New River Gorge Bridge was completed in 1977, it was a remarkable feat: 22,000 ton stretch of steel spanning the gaping 3,030-foot wide gorge, 876 feet about the churning, ice cold New River. It cost $37 million, created four lanes of traffic, and cut the local commute from 45 minutes down to just one, bypassing winding Appalachian mountain roads.
After it was completed, it stepped into its place as the longest single-arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere, and in 2013, after only 34 years, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its engineering significance. It even has its own stamp.
During construction, people would look at the span and marvel. Perhaps even wondering what the views were like from way up there, a mere couple hundred feet shy of the Eiffel Tower, or if the construction workers were bothered by the wind. But one intrepid guy named Burton Ervin looked at it and thought, “A man could jump off of that.”