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BASE Jumping From the New River Gorge Bridge

The New River Gorge Bridge near Fayetteville, WV is the highest bridge east of the Mississippi. With a roadbed of 3,030 feet it is the world’s longest single-arch steel bridge and is 876 feet above the New River. (That’s 325 feet higher than the Washington Monument) Its construction was a ten-year project and before the bridge was opened to vehicular traffic in October of 1977, for one day, people were allowed to walk across the bridge. Many people wanted to walk it again so the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce made "Bridge Day" an annual event...held on the third Saturday of October every year.

For BASE parachute jumpers, building a spectacular span like the New River Gorge Bridge was like setting candy on a table and telling a child not to eat any. After several illegal jumps, the Chamber of Commerce got the idea that, since they were jumping anyway, they might as well legalize it and make some money from the event and thus, Bridge Day in Fayetteville, WV became the only legal BASE jump in the United States.

Eight Hundred and Seventy Six feet is not much margin for error so the BASE parachutists hold drogue chutes in their hands as they jump. In free fall, it only takes 6 seconds before you hit the water, so the jumpers will only wait a few seconds (to clear the bridge infrastructure) and then toss the drogue into the air. The main chute then opens and the jumper has to steer his chute toward the landing beach at Fayette Station marked with a large X.

Accidents are not as numerous on Bridge Day as you might suspect. BASE jumpers have to pre-register, attend a meeting on the Friday before the event, and pay a fee to be allowed to jump. Jetboats patrol the water under the bridge to pull out anyone who lands in the river. The jumpers don't wear PFD’s and they don't want to land in the water so they can hurry back up with a dry chute and attempt a second or third jump. Every year, a few people land in the trees and one year, one jumper landed on the wrong side of the river and crashed into a pot of chili being cooked by some spectators.

The best way to catch the action is to ride a raft down the New River and tie up right below the bridge. AAA Adventure Outdoors runs the popular "Bridge Day" trip every year. On this trip, you can paddle down to the bridge, run some nice whitewater, and then enjoy lunch as you watch the action from directly below the bridge.

For more information go to:
www.aaaAdventureOutdoors.com
Or call 1877-868-4578

For the brave, the number to call to register to jump is:
(707) 793-2297