Upon its completion in December 2016, the Duge Beipanjiang Bridge became the highest bridge in the world. Not the tallest, but highest—as it crosses above the Beipanjiang Grand Valley, its road deck reaches a dizzying height of 1,854 feet above the Beipan River below.
The Guizhou Province of southern China is a land of mountains, high plateaus, rivers, and canyons. In order to traverse this spectacular but rugged landscape, the Chinese have built a number of bridges. Big bridges.
In fact, three of the world’s five highest bridges are found in Guizhou, where they carry roads across plummeting valleys. And since December 29, 2016, the king of these bridges has been the Duge Beipanjiang, which holds the records as the highest bridge in the world, a full 227 feet higher than its closest rival.
The Duge Beipanjiang Bridge (also called the Beipanjiang Bridge or the Duge Bridge) is a concrete cable-stayed bridge that carries four lanes across the Beipan River. Connecting Xuanwei in the Yunnan Province and Liupanshui in Guizhou, the bridge reduces travel times between the two cities from four hours to just over an hour.
It was a massive construction project, and the designers kept having to move the final location of the bridge higher and higher to avoid caves and cracking in the karst mountains at either side of the valley.
The eastern tower of the bridge is 883 feet tall, which is up there among the tallest bridges in the world. Even more impressive, however, is the huge expanse between the road deck and the river below. The deck is 1,854 feet—or over a third of a mile—above the average water level of the river. For perspective, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has a clearance of about 220 feet. Chicago’s Sears Tower would fit under the Beipanjiang Bridge with 400 feet to spare, while London’s 30 St Mary Axe (The Gherkin) would fit under the bridge three times over.