Royal Gorge was carved by the Arkansas River. Unlike the broad Grand Canyon, the Arkansas River cut a very narrow and steep gorge through the rock.
We began exploring Royal Gorge with a trip down the Incline Railway. The ride takes about 5 minutes inside a rather small cage. We had plenty of time to view the walls of the gorge as we descended to the river.
The Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge is 1053 feet above the Arkansas River making it the tallest suspension bridge over water in the world. As we started to cross the bridge, we passed the anchorages and the thousands of steel strands that hold the surface of the bridge up.
The Arkansas River flows away to the east. The Railroad is part of the Denver and Rio Grand Western Railroad. In 1877 silver was discovered along the Arkansas River and the Rio Grande and the Santa Fe Railroads competed for the right to build a railroad through the gorge to carry the freshly mined ore from the mountains. This competition led to the Royal Gorge War with both railroads sabotaging their competitor’s efforts. The conflict resulted in a six month long court battle in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Denver & Rio Grande had the right of way through the gorge. Unhappy with the results, the Santa Fe Railroad continued its efforts to build a parallel track and further conflict ensued. Eventually, the ownership of the line was settled and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad completed the route through the gorge, paid the Santa Fe Railroad for the track that the Santa Fe Railroad had laid and leased the line to the Santa Fe. Eventually, the mining operations ceased and the route was used primarily for passenger service until 1967. Now, a sightseeing train runs along the track through the gorge from Canon City to Parkdale.
Once we crossed the bridge, we spent a while watching the Bighorn Sheep in the Wildlife Park.
We rode the Aerial Tram back across the gorge. From the tram we could see the bridge as it spanned the gorge over the river far below. Just barely visible in this photo is the hanging bridge. The gorge is too narrow at this point to support a bed for the railroad, so the railroad constructed an bridge for the track that is suspended from two metal braces anchored on both ends of the gorge. When we were down in the gorge, I took a better photo of the hanging bridge.
We left the park and continued on our route west. Once we drove up into the mountains, we again encountered a landscape shrouded in vast amounts of snow.
We then continued our drive down the mountains. We planned to spend the next day sightseeing at Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park.