South Carolina is home to one of them most remarkable bridges in the world. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge that connects Charleston with Mount Pleasant by way of coastal Highway 17 is 2.5 miles long and is an engineering marvel. One of its two cable-stayed spans is the third longest in the Western Hemisphere, and the bridge itself is the tallest, in terms of clearance underneath, in the state.
In July of 2005, when the new eight-lane bridge opened, it instantly began to compete with the local views of the Atlantic.
For the first time in history, locals and visitors alike turned their attentions from the views of Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean to the gorgeous new structure that dominated the landscape.
The picturesque Ravenel Bridge can be seen for miles and miles from points all around the Charleston and Mount Pleasant areas.
The above photo was taken from Pitt Street Park, located several miles away in Mount Pleasant. But you can see this colossal bridge from Interstate 526, tens of miles away. It looms on the horizon and seems to pose nightly for countless breathtaking sunset photos. But what's it like to cross this huge bridge?
Crossing on foot has become a major tourist attraction in the Lowcountry.
A convenient parking area is located at the foot of the bridge on the Mount Pleasant side. The pedestrian lane and the separate bike lane provide ample room to cross on foot or on your bike. Pedaling up the bridge can be a hefty feat if you're only used to pedaling around the Lowcountry (where there are no hills)!
The views from the bridge (whether on foot, on a bike, or in a car) are astounding.
From the top of the bridge you'll have a near bird's eye view of the Lowcounty, including huge ships passing under the bridge from the port located not far upriver. A 186-foot clearance below the tallest span leaves plenty of room for the big container ships and their cargo to pass below.
If walking, jogging or cycling over the bridge just isn't in your wheelhouse at the moment, then driving over the bridge is a delight.
The roomy 12-foot-wide driving lanes make crossing this engineering wonder a pleasure with ample space for whatever vehicle you happen to be driving. If you're lucky enough to be in the passenger seat, then the views from the bridge are unsurpassed in the Charleston area.
Many locals still have flashbacks to experiences on the two old obsolete cantilever bridges that were replaced by The Ravenel. Crossing either one of them was a white-knuckle, prayer-inspiring experience each and every time you had to get from one side of the Cooper River to the other.
Want a reminder of those days? Watch this amazing video below from Facebook user
, taken with his cell phone in 2005 just before the closing of the Grace Memorial Bridge.
(The music in the background on his radio is 96Wave playing "Church" and "Nirvana.")
Have you seen and crossed the new bridge? And do you have memories (good or bad) of crossing the old bridges? We’d love to know the answers to both questions!