You know how I enjoy trudging [my kids’ word] through a forest. Well, my husband and I visited the Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania and discovered an interesting park called the Kinzua Bridge State Park. What a captivating view from the skywalk over Kinzua Creek Valley far below. You could see for miles along the valley in both directions. Although we missed peak leaf color, the trees were bare, the real view was looking down.
The Kinzua Viaduct was first built of iron in 1882. It was the “longest and tallest railroad structure in the world at 2,053 feet long and 301 feet high.” [park literature] A viaduct is a train bridge “over a valley consisting of a number of short spans” per dictionary.com.
In the visitors’ center and museum at the park, we learned that the train bridge was later changed to a steel structure to accommodate the heavier trains. Still, the trains needed to crawl across the bridge because of wind.
Then a tornado swept through the valley in July of 2003 and ripped the center of the bridge to pieces.
But oh, the beauty of hiking in the woods. I trekked down to the valley below. The Kinzua Creek Trail started with huge rock slab steps.
This steep trail—almost straight down—wound its way to Kinzua Creek in switchbacks. Back and forth, the trail cut into the valley walls. The wreckage of the steel girders lay twisted and mangled on the valley floor like a broken Erector Set for a giant. The power of man cannot withstand the power of nature and wind. Nature wins every time.
Visitors are not permitted to walk among the broken girders. It’s too dangers as the valley floor is uneven and overgrown, and the girders are sharp and rusted. As I gazed up at the skywalk on this brilliant fall day, I knew the harder hike lay before me. I needed to climb back up to the museum and Visitors’ Center.
Like any hike, you need to bring water with you, no matter how cool the weather is or how short you think the hike will be. Dress in layers, removing layers cautiously, and drink lots of water. I rested much more on my ascent than I did on the descent into the valley. Depending upon your age or ability to hike, double the time given for a hike. The Kinzua Creek Trail is marked “more difficult” for a reason. The literature suggests you be in good physical condition and wear sturdy hiking footwear.
The museum is historical in nature about the building and collapse of the Kinzua Viaduct. There are interactive exhibits and videos and pieces of the train bridge. We enjoyed our visit so much we plan to go back earlier next fall to catch the peak leaf color, if we can.
Thanks so much for reading Camping with Five Kids. Please stop by again! Till then, enjoy life’s adventures. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!