When we were planning our Colorado trip, one attraction we were particularly attracted to was the Royal Gorge in Cañon City. There seemed to be a lot to see and do at the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. We were travelling with my ‘bestie’ and her family and it seemed like a great place to go to if you had some ‘company.’
We wanted to see the gorge, the suspension bridge over it (it used to be the world’s highest suspension bridge for several years), the aerial tram, the railway ‘along’ the gorge and the incline railway here at the Royal Gorge Park.
Now the biggest attraction here is the Royal Gorge itself, for me, at least. This gorge owes its being to the Arkansas River that trickled down from that part of the Rocky Mountains in central Colorado and decided to flow through this rocky surface. Today, millions of years later, this gorge is one to have a look into. It’s over a 1000 ft deep, said the person who manned the aerial tramway that took us to the other side of the gorge. What sets this canyon apart from its cousins in the United states is that it is not as wide as them. The Royal gorge is just about 40-50 metres wide and perhaps that is why it looks as precarious as it does. You should see this picture I took from a little gap in between two planks of one of the highest suspension bridges in the world!
|Now if you have no acrophobia, this is something to do on this really ‘high’ suspension bridge–peep down.|
|The sight down below — a pic from one of those gaps between the planks on the bridge.
You see the Arkansas river and the railway tracks that run along the river.
One of the first few things we did as we got to the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park was to take a ride in its famous Incline Railway. The cars of this railway are placed like steps and they go up and down an inclined path travelling at a 45 degree angle. As we waited to go on the trip to the bottom of the gorge, we happened to be the first in the line and so we had the privilege of getting into the first car at the bottom. And this gave us the best possible (the scariest. if you have a fear of heights) view of the trip down this steep track. In a little over 5 minutes we were at the lower end of the tracks where were got to get down and look up at the majesty of the Royal Gorge. While we were down there, we also got to see the Arkansas River up close.
We also saw the tracks that took the train along the canyon bed. Since it was a weekday and not exactly holiday season yet, the train was not in operation. That was pretty unfortunate but we were not really upset because California Zephyr did take us through some massive Canyons and we also got to drive through some of these rocky structures when we drove down from Denver to Aspen.
|Royal Gorge’s ‘Inclined Railway’|
|All the way to the bottom of Royal Gorge.
The view from the first car of the Inclined Railway
After the ascent back up on the winch, we had a quick lunch and got into the aerial tramway that took us over the gorge. They call it one of the longest single span aerial trams. From this tram we could see the full depth of the gorge and the striking suspension bridge that connected the two sides of the canyon. From the quick chat I had with the gentleman who took us across, I learnt that the gorge was over a 1000 ft deep and over 2000 ft wide at the top, and that the cable car took 4 minutes to get to the opposite side of the gorge.
|The tram is said to be 1178 ft above the Arkansas River.
And it runs a good 2200 ft to get to the other side of the canyon.
He also told us that he could take us back to where we came from or we could chose to walk over the bridge. We chose the latter option which was the 1270 ft long and 18 ft wide suspension bridge. On our way to the bridge we walked through a Wapiti Park which was made of enclosures that housed bisons and elks. We also had a quick look inside a Mountain Man camp.
The walk on the bridge was a great experience. There was more time — compared to the crossing on the cable car — to take in the surroundings and have a nice long look into the deep ravine. I’d also like to remind you about that peep through the planks of the bridge and the amazing view of the gorge down below and the Arkansas River that flowed through. Wait there’s one more thing you should experience while walking on this bridge — try to stay on it till a vehicle drives by. We stood by as an SUV came that way and wasn’t it exciting to feel one plank go down after the other as it passed by!
If you are visiting in the peak season — you could take the train along the gorge, try zip lining across the bridge, even feel the adrenalin rush as a catapult throws you in the air — just above this deep gorge.
There will also be men in costumes in the Mountain Man camp to give you a history lesson or two about the ancient men who once lived in these areas and took refuge among these rocky structures when the strong winds blew past. By the way if you are there when the winds are doing what they do best, the tramway services might be suspended.
|A little Royal Gorge history|