11:00 - 11:50
30 October 2020

Kaibab Trail Suspension Bridge: National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark

History & Heritage

This session will earn 1.0 PDH

Abstract: Situated within one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Kaibab Trail Suspension Bridge across the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon is a noteworthy civil engineering achievement that has played a role in Grand Canyon history. Because the Colorado River and its canyons are a formidable barrier to travel in the Colorado Plateau and the desert southwest, the bridge is one of very few Colorado River crossings in this region.

Constructed in a remote and extremely rugged environment in 1928, the bridge represents an innovative design to: meet its intended use of carrying foot traffic and livestock; overcome shortcomings in the design of a predecessor bridge; and be compatible with limitations on delivery of construction materials. It also represents the influence of civil engineering in the development of National Parks in the early, formative years of the National Park Service.

The bridge is historically noteworthy from a civil engineering standpoint; in 2017 it was named by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. Built in a remote location with incredibly difficult access through rugged terrain, the 440 foot long bridge was designed to carry foot traffic, horses, and mules and was made of components that could be carried down into the Grand Canyon by man or mule.

At the time of its completion in 1928, the Kaibab Trail Suspension Bridge was the only crossing of the Colorado River in a distance of 754 miles from Moab, Utah, to Needles, California.

Learning Objectives: 

  • Describe the innovative design and construction of a 440 foot long suspension bridge built in an extremely remote location – the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
  • Discuss one of the recently designated National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.
  • Explain the achievements and contributions of civil engineers in the early years of the National Park Service.