Mountains-to-Sea Trail Bridge Opens Today, Just in Time for WNC Fall Leaf, Hiking Season

Published Monday, October 3, 2016 at 12:09 pm
A new 80-foot bridge across Boone Fork Creek on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail opened today near Blowing Rock. Trail volunteer Drew Koehler of Watauga County enjoys the view. Photo by Randy Johnson

A new 80-foot bridge across Boone Fork Creek on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail opened today near Blowing Rock. Trail volunteer Drew Koehler of Watauga County enjoys the view. Photo by Randy Johnson

Just in time for the fall leaf season, a new 80-foot bridge was opened today to help hikers traverse one of the most scenic and rugged sections of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) near Boone.

The bridge was assembled in less than a month with a helicopter being used to protect the environment and expedite the project by ferrying construction equipment. The bridge allows hikers to avoid knee-deep wading across Boone Fork creek as the MST turns north from the popular Boone Fork Trail in Julian Price Memorial Park to cross Shulls Mill Road.

The bridge will improve access to Price Park’s back country campsite, one of only three backpack camping areas permitted along the entire Blue Ridge Parkway.

The $250,000 bridge was paid for with funds from the federal Recreational Trails Program, administered by the NC Division of State Parks, and a John Wesley and Anna Hodgin Hanes Foundation grant to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. The project was managed by Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

The project contributes to the celebrations for the 100th anniversaries of the National Park Service and North Carolina State Parks.

The Boone Fork Bridge is the third span completed along the MST this year. Others opened were in Hillsborough across the Eno River and in Elkin across Big Elkin Creek. Other bridges are planned in Eno River State Park and near Falls Lake.

“It has been the year of the bridges for the MST,” said Kate Dixon, executive director of the Friends, a non-profit organization of volunteers who build, maintain and promote use of the trail, which runs more than 1,000 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.

The Boone Fork bridge is one of many recent improvements for hikers between Linville and Blowing Rock along the flank of Grandfather Mountain, through meadows and forests in the Price Memorial Park and Moses Cone Memorial Park with its carriage paths.

Arete Engineers of Boone was designer and construction supervisor for the bridge. The bridge components were manufactured by Strongwell Corporation of Bristol, Virginia. NHM Constructors of Asheville constructed the bridge.

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The project required drilling bridge footers into solid rock outcrops on bots sides of the Boone Fork creek. Photo by T. Shawn Ausel

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Scaffolding was needed to support the bridge while it was constructed across the creek. Photo by T. Shawn Ausel

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Scaffolding was needed to support the bridge while it was constructed across the creek. Photo by T. Shawn Ausel

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Areté engineer Adam Felmlee smiles last Wednesday when the helicopter airlifted out the last of the construction equipment and the bridge was almost finished. Photos by Randy Johnson

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This family was the first to cross the bridge on Sunday after engineer Adam Felmlee and MST volunteer Drew Koehler removed the red tape and permitted public access to great new views from above the creek. Photo by Drew Koehler

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A helicopter airlifts out the last of the construction equipment. Photos by Randy Johnson

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