The New River Gorge Bridge was revolutionary for southern West Virginia. Built in 1977, this engineering wonder bridged the gap in the mountains created by the New River, and shortened a winding mountain drive from an hour to a minute. Now, you can zoom across the gorge and barely notice that you’re 876 feet in the air. But, if you’d like to experience the old way of crossing the Gorge, you still can — by taking Fayette Station Road down to the New River, and back up again.
The New River Gorge Bridge is located on US 19 north of Fayetteville, West Virginia. To access Fayette Station Road, exit US 19 on the north side of the bridge towards the North Rim Visitor Center, then follow the signs for County Route 82 – Fayette Station Road. Be aware that most, but not all, of this route is one-way.
The New River Gorge Bridge has become a symbol for the state of West Virginia. It even appeared on West Virginia’s state quarter. If you just have a fleeting interest in looking at the bridge, you can check out the viewpoint behind the visitor center. It’s an okay view…
… but if you want to see that state quarter view, you’ll need to make the serpentine drive down to the river. And that involves taking the old road through the gorge — the tedious, narrow route that everyone had to travel before the completion of the big bridge in 1977.
The Drive Down Fayette Station Road
On your way down to the river, you’ll pass below the bridge in a couple of locations. This is where you really get an amazing perspective on the size of this bridge.
From Fayette Station Road, you can look straight up at the structure of the bridge. The only way to get a better view is to take the Bridge Walk across the bridge’s catwalk — which I did, the following day.
The Fayette Station Bridge was built in 1889. It was closed to traffic in 1977, once the big bridge opened. During the 80’s and most of the 90’s, the bridge was fenced-off, and if you drove down Fayette Station Road, your only choice was to drive back the way you came — meaning there was two-way traffic zipping around those one-lane curves, making the drive into the gorge very dangerous.
I remember visiting here when I was a kid. There were holes cut in the fence, and everyone seemed to ignore the dangers of walking across a nearly-100-year-old, unrepaired bridge. Reconstructing the bridge in 1997 was a great idea. Now, the danger of two-way traffic is gone, and you can safely walk across the Fayette Station Bridge for a nice view of the big bridge,
I’d suggest parking on the north side of the bridge, near these railroad tracks. Once you’ve crossed to the south side, parking is very limited, and there’s no good place to turn around. Even if you did, you’d have to drive the wrong way back across the bridge.
The drive up the south side is just as curvy and challenging as the drive down the north side. Also on this side, you’ll pass below the bridge for a look at its underside and footings. You’ll emerge back on US 19, about one mile south of the bridge.
Here’s a look at the drive under the New River Gorge Bridge, on Fayette Station Road:
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The drive down Fayette Station Road is a great way to experience the New River Gorge and see the steel-arch bridge from some interesting angles.