The world’s highest bridges are open for business and pleasure

The world’s highest bridges are open for business and pleasure


Image Source: Discover Guizhou

Modern miracle: the Beipanjiang Bridge, in Guizhou province, is the highest in the world

The Beipanjiang Bridge in Guizhou province, southwestern China, has been called a modern miracle. Also known as the Duge Bridge, it is nearly a mile long and is the highest in the world, its road deck soaring 564m (1,850ft) above the Beipan River. Since it opened in 2016, the mighty four-lane construction has slashed the time it takes to get from Guizhou to neighbouring Yunnan.

And that’s just one example of the enormous development that has come to this formerly isolated, landlocked province, which covers 68,018sq miles and has a population of 38.56 million. Twenty years ago, it took two and a half hours to drive from Pingtang County, to Luodian County, also in Guizhou. Crossing the Pingli River Valley alone took 50 minutes. Motorists dreamed of having a bridge over the river and in 2019 their dreams came true.

Today, it just takes two minutes to cross the valley on the Pingtang Bridge, which, at 332m (1,089ft), is the world’s tallest concrete bridge tower and the first three-tower cable-stayed bridge in a mountainous area.

Liu Hao, an engineer working for the Huajiang Valley Bridge, Guizhou Bridge Construction Group, says: “Imagine how it was without the bridge. We had to go along the twisting mountain road to transport fresh local products. It took a day and the products would all rot on the way.”

Today, Guizhou has more than 5,000 miles of highway connecting the province and the outside world through its 12,000 bridges – nearly half of the world’s 100 highest bridges are in Guizhou – and more than 2,100 tunnels. According to Li Zhonghua, the chief supervising engineer of the Pingtang-Luodian Expressway, agricultural products and local specialities can now be quickly delivered to other cities, helping local markets expand their outreach and online business.

Many bridges in Guizhou have become internet famous, with their own sites and fan groups. Others have become tourist attractions and draw lovers of outdoor sports from all over the world.

Daredevils: the Baling River Bridge was the location for China‘s first bridge Base jump competition

The Baling River Bridge is located close to the Huangguoshu Waterfall, the largest in China and a major tourist attraction. The name Huangguoshu actually refers to a series of waterfalls, but main one is 101m (331ft) wide and 77.8m (255ft) high. The Mountain Lodge by Ven, a modern boutique hotel, is the perfect viewpoint from which to enjoy both wonders – one natural, one the product of human ingenuity and determination.

The bridge – with a deck height of 370m (1,210ft), it’s one of the world’s highest – was the location for China’s first bridge Base jump event, in 2012. It has also been recognised by Guinness World Records as the highest commercial bungee jump facility in the world.

Beneath the megastructure is Guizhou’s first bridge-themed science and technology museum, the Baling River Guizhou Bridge Technology Museum. Its young curator, Zhao Xiong, says it is a museum about the history, spirit and technological innovations of bridge construction in Guizhou. Indeed, the province itself has become known as the “museum of bridges”.

These feats of engineering have, in essence, flattened the mountainous inland province. Guizhou now has 5,177 miles of completed expressway, second in China in terms of network density. The so-called “plain of expressways” has changed the transport conditions in southwest China, supporting the province’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. It also helps to advance the new western land-sea corridor, which was agreed to in 2019 by a group of provinces in the west of the country.

The Baling River Bridge. Video produced by Discover Guizhou