Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania: In 1882 the Kinzua Viaduct was built over the Kinzua Gorge on the eastern edge of the Allegheny National Forest Region. At the time, this railway bridge, was the highest and longest in the world measuring 92 metres (301 feet) high and 625 metres (2,053 feet) long, built to transport coal, and lumber over the gorge. It saved the builders from constructing an additional 13 kilometres (8 miles) of track over rough terrain. Amazingly, the bridge was built by 125 men working 10-hour days in just 94 days.
However, in July 2003, most of the bridge was destroyed by a fierce tornado. And after much reconstruction, what was left of the bridge has been turned into one of Pennsylvania's most popular attractions.
My wife Ellen and I made an overnight trip to visit this fascinating attraction. At the Kinzua Viaduct, we found six towers of the historic bridge have been reinvented into a spectacular walkway that allows pedestrians to, "Walk across the sky." In the centre of the walkway, the original tracks remain. We ventured to the end where we took in dramatic views of the gorge below. Remnants of the steel from the bridge destroyed by the tornado were seen through a partial glass floor at the end of the walkway. The morning light from the walkway was breathtaking.
The Kinzua Bridge State Park features lovely picnic areas, hiking trails, interpretive programs and scenic overlooks. It's a unique spot where you can enjoy unspoiled wilderness. Admittance is free. GPS Users can punch in 1721 Lindholm Drive, Mount Jewell, PA.
We left the park and took a short trip along highway 219 north to the town of Bradford, PA (pop.8,700). This is small town America, built from the production of high quality crude oil. We walked the historic main street and stumbled upon the restaurant Kabob's at the Option House, a great choice. The restaurant built in 1902 is found in an old Options House where stocks and bonds were purchased with gold bullion. Check out the inside and let manager Kristin Morris fill you in on the rest of the history about the building.
When we left town, we took a ten-minute drive along Route 346 west to visit a rustic wooden covered bridge at Marilla Reservoir Park. We walked off our lunch with an hour stroll along a spectacular trail around the reservoir.
Now mid-afternoon, we travelled to the tiny nearby hamlet of Smethport, a quaint Victorian village tucked away in a valley surrounded by the hills of the Allegheny National Forest. We parked our car and took the historic self-guided tour of Smethport's Mansion District. It gave us an insight into the opulent past of this rich area. Smethport was established in the 1880's when a combination of vast lumber reserves, oil reserves and railroads caused vast amounts of money to flow into the area and Smethport prospered. Magnificent mansions, built by some of the richest people in the United States, were built here and still remain today.
We stayed at the lovingly-restored Mansion District Inn. Amiable hosts Jovanna and Ross Porter were there to greet us and couldn't wait to show us their restored 1891 mansion, one of the most comfortable B&B's we've ever stayed in. Our McCandless Suite was immaculate; the bed was cozy; the TV was easy to use; and our sitting room had lots of light to read by. We enjoyed a gourmet breakfast while our hosts told us more about the history of this pretty town.
Ross and Jovanna Porter's Mansion District Inn Suites
Kinzua Sky Walk
Tracks Across The Sky
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.