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Taking the Plunge at Bridge Day

by Chelsea Ayers

West Virginia is well known for its scenic beauty and outdoor activities like biking, hiking, whitewater rafting, and one of the more extreme sports – BASE jumping. BASE jumping stands for the fixed objects you can jump from including: buildings, antennas, spans and Earth. BASE jumping is currently known as an extreme sport, and it is illegal except for a few places. One of those places is Fayetteville, West Virginia, and it holds an annual event known as Bridge Day.

Bridge Day is one of the largest extreme sporting events in the world. It is held by the New River Gorge Bridge Day Commission, and it is sponsored by numerous local and international companies. It is the only day of the year people are allowed to BASE jump off the bridge into the New River Gorge (merely 876 feet below). That may not seem very high to some people, but you can fit the Seattle Space Needle, the Statue of Liberty, the Pyramid of Giza and the Gateway Arch underneath the bridge. You could even put the Washington Monument under the bridge and still have 325 feet of space in between them.

The first Bridge Day was held on Nov. 8, 1980. Two parachutists jumped from a plane onto the bridge, five parachutists jumped from the bridge to the river and 5,500 certificates were given to people taking the 3,000 foot walk across the bridge. With the event bringing in thousands of people, it was a sure thing to hold every year. Since then, the only cancellation was in 2001.

The event is held on the third Saturday of October to commemorate the 1977 completion of the bridge. Each year, the four lanes are closed to vehicular traffic, and pedestrians are legally allowed to roam the bridge to enjoy the festivities. The festival includes demonstrations of rappelling, ascending and BASE jumping. Bungee jumping has been banned since 1993.

For those that do not dare to take the leap, there are plenty of activities to do including a 5K, chili cook off and a four mile bike or hike down to the gorge. There will also be plenty of vendors along the highway leading to the bridge on both sides, so you can shop, dine and listen to music. This year’s Bridge Day will be Oct. 21.

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