Kinzua Bridge State Park is one of “Twenty Must-See Pennsylvania State Parks” chosen by Pennsylvania DCNR and Bureau of Parks. It is home of the Kinzua Bridge crossing Kinzua Creek.
It is in northern Pennsylvania south of Salamanca New York between routes 6 and 59. It is east of Allegheny National Forest, north of the McKean County border. The 329-acre park has hiking, fishing, and hunting. It has a picnic area and conveniently located restroom.
The Kinzua Bridge was named the Eighth Wonder of the World when built in 1882. It was the second highest bridge in the U.S., at 2,053 feet long and 301 feet high. It was twenty-four feet taller than the top of the Brooklyn Bridge towers. It was seen as a sky walkway 300 feet over the valley. It was built from iron in 1881, and replaced in 1900 by a bridge built to the same dimensions from steel. The bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Lake Erie and Western Railway needed a southern route from Bradford to the coalfields in Elk County. The Kinzua Bridge was built as a direct route for crossing the Kinzua Valley. It was erected in 94 working days with a crew of 40 men, using kit form trestles. It remained in commercial service until 1959, and used by excursion steam locomotives up to 2002. Regrettably the bridge was devastated by tornado in July 2003.
The storm blowing at 40 mph tore down 11 of the 20 structural spans damaging nearby trees. Investigation determined that the structure oscillated at least four times before the base bolts broke by fatigue. The towers fell in sections, remaining a visitor attraction to document tornado damage. In recent years six towers have been repaired producing the Kinzua Sky Walk with reinforced-glass providing a view of the valley below. Repair cost 4.3 million dollars.
Kinzua Bridge State Park is placed between three Pennsylvania towns, Kane to the southwest, Bradford north with Smethport east.
Bradford is a small city with a population of 9,175. It was born as a wild oil boomtown during the Pennsylvania oil rush at the end of the 19th century. Today it is known as the home of the Zippo collectible lighters.
Kane is a borough with a population of 4,126. It was founded by Civil War General Thomas L. Kane in 1863. It is known as the “Ice Box of Pennsylvania” due to the cold temperatures that occur during winter months.
The borough of Smethport has a population of 1.684 and considered a ‘topographic crown jewel’ of the Pennsylvania Wilds region. Kinzua Bridge State Park is 147 miles from Rochester New York, a 3-hour drive. First drive south on IS 390 to route 17 west to route 219 south then east on route 66 to Kinzua Bridge State Park.
Autumn is an ideal time to visit this area of the state with the colors of the season. Pack your car you will enjoy the trip.