I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).
The Royal Gorge
Remembering our teeth-chattering visit to the Royal Gorge outside Canon City, Colorado, in the wintertime many years ago, one might think that warmer days might be more enjoyable. I would be one that would agree with that assessment!
My grandparents liked to travel around the United States, and from their tales of having seen the attraction, it was of interest to me to someday see The Royal Gorge of Colorado for myself.
That opportunity presented itself many years ago, for which I am happy. So when the time came for a visit, the weather was not going to impede that action.
A United States explorer by the name of Zebulon Pike discovered the Royal Gorge in 1806. He must have been amazed when he first stumbled upon this location!
The Arkansas River has been carving its way through this area for centuries. What has become known as The Royal Gorge is an impressive sight indeed! Mountainous cliffs frame the dramatic dropoff to the active river some 1,000 feet beneath their more lofty heights.
At times the Arkansas River can be slow and more sluggish with icy chunks on its surface as we saw it as compared with other times of the year when it is racing and offering rafters the time of their life in navigating the rapids.
World's Highest Suspension Bridge
Construction of this world's highest suspension bridge over the Royal Gorge took place in 1929. The bridge is statuesque in its posturing over the Arkansas River below. It has since lost that status, but the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge was the world's highest for over seven decades.
Situated 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River, it is an engineering marvel. The Royal Gorge Bridge is 1,260 feet long (384 meters) and 18 feet wide (5 meters.)
The construction of a walkway using 1,292 wooden planks took place, and it originally cost $350,000 to build. The intent was never for it to be the main transport for motorized vehicles, although vehicles can cross it, but more of a tourist attraction and that it has indeed become.
Renovations lasted from 1982 to '83 and cost more than eight times the original construction price. The new engineering can now safely host hordes of tourists who wish to experience its lofty height amidst a spectacular setting for a long time into the future. That is reassuring!
Anyone afraid of heights might want to bypass walking out onto this suspension bridge. Or, if walking on it, keep gazing at the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance instead of peering downward.
Deer at the Royal Gorge
As one can easily see from these many photos taken of wild deer roaming the area around the Royal Gorge, these animals are abundant in their presence at this site in the winter.
We found out from people who managed a store on site that these deer truly rely upon people to help feed them during the winter when their natural food sources are less easily attainable due to snow blanketing the ground. They told us that the grocery stores and restaurants in the area never let their excess produce go to waste. They use any excess to help nourish these deer until they can more easily gather their food.
Whether that is the right thing to do or rather to let nature take its course is another subject entirely. Suffice it to say that this gathering of hungry and rather people-friendly deer becomes an attraction in itself.
We had a few crackers in the car with us that were gobbled up by the first deer approaching us. Measures to keep the deer out of the convenience store take place. They would love to walk right in and help themselves to offerings on the shelves!
Leaf lettuce and carrots were among our offerings, and foolishly I thought that we could pull off one leaf at a time and feed many of the gathered deer in our presence. We were hoping to nourish some of the smaller and thinner ones.
Temporarily I forgot about "survival of the fittest" but was taught a quick lesson. Once the deer discovered our generosity, the biggest and strongest came to the forefront and snatched the entire head of lettuce from my grasp. A bit of a frenzy occurred, and we all retreated to the safety of the car.
That was foolish on our part, and we could have been injured had one reared up and used its hooves. Live and learn! After all, as cute as these deer appear, they are still wild animals and happened to be hungry ones at that. We fed the rest of them through our car window, although the treasured lettuce had already disappeared primarily into the stomach of that one dominant deer.
Experiencing the incline railway was the teeth-chattering part of our visit! Ground-level, as one can see from the photos, snow was on the ground. It was also windy, but the sun shined brightly, and with our outer apparel, we were comfortable.
The Incline Railway was constructed in 1931 by the same engineers that worked on the suspension bridge, and it is another engineering marvel at the Royal Gorge. It has been taking people to the bottom of the gorge for decades now in assured safety.
There are backup emergency devices such as a diesel engine to use and also 19 manually controlled stopping devices that could be put into place if ever needed.
Like the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge, the Royal Gorge Incline Railway is on the National Register of Historic Places.
One sits in a metal cage of sorts. It was icy metal the day we rode in it! A mechanical mechanism drives the string of enclosures holding tourists down a 45-degree steep incline to the bottom of the Royal Gorge and back up again. The descent progresses at a speed of three miles per hour.
As one goes down this incline of 1,550 feet (473 meters), one sees close-up views of the rock formations on this journey, which takes about five and a half minutes to complete one way.
Once down at the bottom, one gets a close-up view of the Arkansas River and the towering cliffs surrounding the river. The Arkansas River continues its scouring action, ever-deepening the gorge over time.
As my mother, niece, and I began our descent, few other tourists were doing the same. The view presented is spectacular, but as we descended lower and lower into the gorge, the temperatures dropped more than just a notch or two on the scale. Wishing that we had worn warmer outer clothing, there was nothing we could do but shiver and shake, trying to stay warm in that cold metal cage.
We did not linger at the bottom after seeing the chunks of ice on the Arkansas River but took the first returning cage lift back to the top and much warmer temperatures. It was so cold down there! I guess we were about as well prepared for that part of the Royal Gorge experience as we were in feeding the deer! Ha!
Would I do it again? Would I take a ride on the Royal Gorge Incline Railway? Absolutely, but in warmer weather. We would also use better discretion regarding how to act around the deer if they are still a part of the scenery at the Royal Gorge. One is never too old to keep learning!
The actual address of the Royal Gorge is 4218 County Road 3A, Canon City, Colorado 81215. The general location is about two hours south of Denver or about forty-five minutes southwest of Colorado Springs. The telephone numbers are 719-275-7507 or 1-888-333-5597.
Other Attractions at the Royal Gorge
There are 360 acres (1.5 km) of what is now a theme park at the Royal Gorge. These include such things as the following:
- An Aerial Tram
- The Incline Railway
- The Royal Gorge Train is a 24-mile round trip journey at the bottom of the canyon along the Arkansas River.
- The Royal Rush Skycoaster
- Horseback riding
- Petting zoo
- Mule team wagon rides
- Cliff Walk, and more.
Most of these things are available during spring, summer, and fall. During the winter, some of these attractions are more limited for obvious reasons.
I hope you enjoyed this post about our teeth-chattering visit to the Royal Gorge and that stupendous Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge in Colorado. If you are ever there, check it out for yourselves, especially if the weather is a bit warmer. It is a spectacular attraction and offers many things to enjoy.
Wonder what it is like whitewater rafting at the Royal Gorge?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Peggy Woods