Liuguanghe Bridge

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Liuguanghe Bridge
Liu Guangzhen, Guizhou, China
975 feet high / 297 meters high
787 foot span / 240 meter span
World's Highest Bridge 2001-2003


Liuguanghe entered the record books in 2001 when it became the world’s highest bridge at 975 feet (297 mtrs), toppling the 72 year old record long held by Colorado’s 955 foot (291 mtr) high Royal Gorge bridge. Even though Liuguanghe’s record would stand for just two years, it will always have the distinction of being the only beam bridge in history that held the top spot among high bridges. The decision not to use an arch, suspension or cable stayed bridge was probably motivated by the deep height of the gorge where the tall piers of a prestressed concrete beam bridge would be easier to construct since the two sides of the bridge could be cantilevered outward without any temporary cable stays or highlines.

The Liuguanghe bridge is the crown jewel in the original 2-lane Guibi highway that is best described as China's first museum of high Chinese bridges. Located near the city of Guiyang in China’s Western province of Guizhou, this 100 mile (161 km) stretch of 2-lane highway contains 2 suspension bridges, one 650 feet (198 mtr) and one 550 feet (168 mtr) high as well as another concrete beam bridge 600 feet (183 mtr) high and two arches, 380 (116 mtr) and 360 feet (110 mtrs) high. Since then it has been bypassed by the more modern 4-lane S30 and S82 Expressways making the Guibi highway more of a local road that is free to drivers.

Although Liuguanghe is named after a nearby town, the bridge actually crosses the upper end of the Wujiang river, a large tributary of the Yangtze that has more high level bridges across its waters than any other river in China. Only the Beipanjiang River has a more spectacular group of high river crossings.

The scale of the Liuguanghe bridge is not always evident from photographs until you realize that the main span of the bridge is 787 feet (240 mtrs) between piers - longer than any beam bridge span that has ever been built in the United States. The pier on the west side of the bridge is the tallest point of the structure standing 295 feet (90 meters) in height. Resting on top of the two piers is a single-cell box girder with a height of 44 feet (13.4 mtrs) over the piers and 13 1/2 feet (4.1 mtrs) at mid-span. The single-cell box beam of the Liuguanghe Bridge has a top width of 13 meters and a bottom width of 7 meters.

On the northwest end of the bridge there is a temporary pullout along the shoulder to park. From there you can walk across the bridge and peer into the void over the 4 foot (1.5 mtr) high concrete barrier.

For those who may not be familiar with cantilevered concrete beam bridges, they are the most popular type of high bridge in China by far. Beam bridges are built by two formwork carriers that advance out from either side of the pier cap with the load balanced evenly on both sides. The concrete box is cast outward in segments of 3 to 5 meters on both ends of the T-shaped pier at the same rate of progress so that the structure remains balanced until the two sides meet in the middle. Unlike other types of bridges, this method requires no falsework or other supports outside of the small footprint of the piers making it easy to build over deep canyons where temporary supports would not be practical.

The beautiful location spawned a temporary food vendor village on the Southeast side of the span sometime after 2008 that was made more permanent in 2013. This has increased traffic on the highway along with China's explosion of car ownership. The resulting congestion has made travel along the 2-lane highway a risky and dangerous adventure. Much of this is due to the slow trucks that stack up as they creep along the steeper grades with endless turns that create blind spots. With no passing lane and no breakdown lanes, drivers have no choice but to pull into the oncoming lane to pass. This has created a deadly cocktail with head-on collisions occurring on a weekly basis.

Luckily in 2016 and 2017 the S30 and S82 4-lane expressways bypassed the Guibi highway. To the north is the Xiqian expressway with the giant new Liuguanghe cable stayed bridge crossing more then 300 meters above the Wujiang. To the south is the Guiqian expressway with Yachi Bridge - the world's second highest cable stayed bridge also more then 300 meters above the Wujiang River. Hopefully these two new routes will have squeezed most of the traffic off of the old Guibi highway and left it to become a more safe route for the smaller, local towns in the region.


Liuguanghe Bridge Elevation













Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Royal-GorgeLiuguanghe WMeasure.jpg

Liuguanghe became the first bridge in 72 years to surpass the Royal Gorge bridge in height.


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Although it is no longer the world's highest bridge, the Liuguanghe is still the world's highest beam bridge with a drop of 297 meters to the Wu River surface. Image by Richard Scott.


Image by Eric Sakowski /


A view looking downstream towards the Liuguanghe arch bridge just barely visible at the top of the photo. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /



Truss-arch bridge downstream of Liuguanghe. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Georges Alban.



Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /



The view looking west up the river gorge is absolutely spectacular. The curving road in the distance leads to a hydroelectric dam. Image by Eric Sakowski /


A sign post with the name of the bridge carved into it. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


An underground grave rests along a road beneath the bridge. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


Sometime after 2008, a large encampment of food vendors sprung up on the Southeast side of the bridge. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Some food vendor trash is burned next to the bridge. Image by Eric Sakowski /


A collection of trash builds next to the stairs that lead down to the old bridge construction road in this 2011 view. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Around 2013 a more permanent group of buildings was constructed for the food stalls. Image by Eric Sakowski /


Image by Eric Sakowski /


The Liuguanghe Bridge can just barely be seen in this view taken from the downstream arch bridge.


Satellite image showing the Liuguanghe Bridge in the lower left and the downstream arch crossing in the upper right.


A satellite view of the Liuguanghe Bridge area taken sometime around 2000 when the highway was still under construction.



Liuguanghe Bridge location map.