Whether man-made or formed by nature, the world is filled with footpaths over otherwise impassable areas. Not the type of bridge that we would drive over, but the kind we come across when blazing a trail by foot. Some of these bridges are geological phenomena and works of art scattered across the Earth. Some of these walkways are ancient yet still usable. Other bridges are built purely for the purpose of crossing over, while yet others are ridiculous monstrosities. There seems to be little harmony between Eco-friendly and functional footpaths. If we can find a rhyme or reason to it, then can’t we conquer this challenge? Travelers, here are 41 footpath bridges from around the globe in the hope we can find the perfect blend of beauty and design to get us from the past to the future in an environmentally conscious crossing to the other side.
Bridges For Adventure — Environmentally Unfriendly?
All over the world, man depends on bridges to make a way where there isn’t a way. Some bridges are needed where erosion has taken a toll. A Jeep passes over a dangerous makeshift bridge (upper left) in Gilgit, Pakistan. The land does not need to be destroyed for simple footpaths. Both kids and adults get creative to construct rope bridges (middle left) over the water. In some places, there are both bridges (upper right) that are man-made and nature-made. Out in the middle of nowhere, bridges were built long ago and are now coated with moss (bottom left). Yet they still serve a purpose, to get us to the other side. Some bridges are unreal and creepy (bottom right), but not environmentally unfriendly. Indeed, except for a path directly to heaven or hell, there is bridge built to take us there.
Is There Rhyme Or Reason To Various Footpaths?
To build a bridge takes up our precious natural resources. Mankind has attempted a wide variety of bridge types to strike a balance between what enhances and what depletes nature. The wavy Taroko pedestrian bridge in Taiwan is more about looks than practicality (upper left). The Hussaini Bridge in Pakistan (upper right) is how people cross the Borak Lake. And it is most assuredly one of the most dangerous hanging bridges in the world. Some people don’t use bridges at all like the soldiers flying over the Golden Gate Bridge (middle left). For people on foot, most crossings have been created that are meant to be aesthetically pleasing footpaths, yet their architectural design did not seem to include what would be the most environmentally friendly way to go about it. Is that a sin? There are other ways.
Nature And Structure: Living Root Bridge
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEI_GRjvDPk 468 310]
This is one of those ways. There are very special bridges that enhance nature. In fact, they are nature. Deep in the rain forest of India, the bridges are grown. Started over 500 years ago, these living root bridges are incredibly strong and could hold the weight of more than 50 people at one time. The village of Cherrapunji exists in a balance of primitive yet advanced culture from which the rest of the world could perhaps learn a few nuggets of wisdom.
Stone Bridges From “Yesterday”
Throughout the world, there are bridges made of sturdy stone that seem as ancient as time itself. These bridges were built long before cars came into existence and are meant to be used as walkways for humans and animals. The Bastei Brücke Bridge (upper left) in Germany is a gorgeous stone bridge that blends with the rocky sandstone surroundings and sits 650 feet above the valley floor. Located in Bulgaria (upper right), there are many stones bridges that were built by archaic Romans. In Huangshan, China, there are crossings that seem almost magical like the walking fairyland bridge (middle left) that spans a deep ravine. Stari Most is translated to mean “old bridge” like the single humpback stone crossing (middle center) that was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificient in 1557 and took 9 years to complete. It was destroyed during the Bosnian War. There are many stone bridges (middle upper right) in Epirus, Ioannina, which is located in northwestern Greece and even more stone crossings (middle lower right) that are crumbling with age. The Bridge of Tallorno (bottom right) is a stone bridge that crosses in Italy and is believed to date back to the XVI century when it was a magnificent example of engineering for its time. The double humpbacked stone bridge at Lavertezzo (bottom right) can be found in Ticino, Switzerland. Bridges built from sticks and stones, you better believe there were plenty of broken bones during the construction. But have we gotten wiser about building footpaths?
Foot Bridges Of Today
If you like to take in nature with small doses of adrenaline, hanging bridges are the way to go. Many are perfectly safe without being overly intrusive to their surroundings (left top & middle). They bounce slightly but you could jump up and down on them and there is no falling or breaking. Others that were created out in the woods are a haphazard design but still serve their purpose (top middle). In Bulgaria, during the ascent of Musala, the Velchevo Mostche Bridge (top right) was built with what was handy nearly 10,000 feet up the highest peak of the Rila Mountains. Yet other crossings are dangerous monstrosities (middle right). Why is it that mankind has such a hard time building safe walking bridges that are eco-friendly yet durable? A triangle bridge (bottom right) located in the forest seemed to have more thought put into it then the bridge over Colca Canyon. The Peruvian bridge (bottom middle) seems to mostly inspire nature lovers to cross in an all-out hurry. The bridge is not the most safe yet crosses a divide that is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. How about finding a nice balance of green and nature? Tokyo offers a solution such a Drum-Kan floating bridge in Okutama (bottom left).
Is There A Perfect Blend Of Nature And Structure?
Throughout the world, in many different languages, simple suspension bridges are also referred to as footpaths, swing bridges, hanging bridges and rope bridges. Some are strong and sturdy like the Kintai Bridge curved arches (top left) in Yamaguchi, Japan, and ensures safe foot traffic over the Nishiki River. Some are located deep in the woods like a hanging bridge (top right) that could carry you into autumn adventures, big or small, by foot or by bike, but not by car. One such footpath, Benson Bridge in Oregon (bottom left), can offer nature’s visitor the best view of Multnomah Falls, a 600 foot high cascade that is located between two tiers. In laidback Laos, a young Buddist monk crosses another type of footpath bridge (bottom right) over the Nam Khan River. Here, the rich brown river could be your bathtub in Luang Prabang as it is for many of the 100,000 people living in the city. Is there a perfect blend of nature and structure?
(image via:National Geographic)
In one of lowest, hottest, and driest places in the US, Death Valley offers us some clues. Most travelers climb the rocks to walk over Natural Bridge Canyon. The stone is structurally sound and sturdy. Yet from beneath this natural bridge, it becomes evident that rushing water eroded the soft sediment, eating away at the rock, until nature formed this bridge. Natural bridges are much more rare than their cousin the natural arch, although both were formed by erosional processes. Nature both caused the problem and created the solution. How much more could mankind improve upon her design?
In breathtaking Utah, Rainbow Bridge is the largest natural bridge in the world. The US Capitol building could stand underneath this bridge. This natural bridge is 275 feet wide and 290 feet tall. This site is sacred to the Navajo yet is visited by more than 300,000 travelers a year. It has inspired people since the dawn of time. Water sculpted this bridge too into the unique geological and natural phenomenon that Rainbow Bridge is today.
Hope For Tomorrow
We all know that man-made bridges are not always about beauty but about functionality like the ones that cross canyons (upper left). Yet some are made by nature (upper right) and erosion but are spectacular and sturdy. There is hope for the future as mankind becomes increasingly Eco-minded. The person who built the bridge at Elowah Falls clearly cares about the Earth and her beauty. We should take heart as we take walks on man-made and nature-made bridges. Be inspired to see nature and her continuing beauty. There is hope for tomorrow and for building future environmentally friendly footpaths that are aesthetically pleasing and architecturally green.