The Golden Gate Bridge is a technical masterpiece that can only be described in superlative terms. When the bridge was completed in 1937 it was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge.
But above all this masterly example of engineering is a magnificent monument set against a beautiful backdrop.
Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge started in 1933. The bridge, which was designed by engineer Joseph Strauss was built to connect San Francisco with Marin County across the 1600 meter (+5000ft) wide strait known as the Golden Gate which links the San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean.
Building the bridge
The construction of what was to become the world’s largest suspension bridge was a colossal task. At the time many people did not believe it was technically possible to span the Golden Gate.
But despite the disbelief, opposition and the Great Depression, Joseph Strauss was able to find sufficient support and financial backing to go ahead with the project.
It would take thousands of workers, four years and 35 million dollars to complete the structure. On May 27, 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge was inaugurated by 18.000 people who walked across the bridge. The next day the bridge officially opened to motorized traffic. Today more than 120,000 cars cross the bridge each day.
Facts and figures
The dimensions of the bridge defied all imagination. The total length of the bridge is 8,981ft or 2,737 m. The main span between the two enormous towers is 4,200 ft or 1,280 meters long, making the Golden Gate Bridge the world’s largest suspension bridge, a record that would stand until 1964 when the Verrazano-Narrows bridge in New York was completed.
The two beautiful Art Deco towers are almost 820ft or 250 meters tall, of which more than 20 meters is below the sea level. The road, six lanes and 90 ft / 27m wide is an amazing 220 ft or 67 meters above the water level. It is supported by enormous cables, anchored in hundreds of bars locked into concrete blocks with a pulling power of 25 million kg. The two cables have a total length of 2,332 meters and a diameter of 90 centimeters. They are woven from 27,572 threads of steel with a total length that equals three times the earth’s circumference.
A world famous landmark
Soon after its completion the Golden Gate Bridge already enjoyed worldwide fame, not only because the bridge was breaking records, but also thanks to the elegant Art Deco design of the two huge towers and the magnificent surroundings near the Pacific Ocean. The eye catching orange-red color of the bridge also helped its popularity. The color was suggested by engineer Irving Morrow, who thought the traditional gray color was too boring.
The Golden Gate Bridge has now long lost its record of the longest bridge, but it is still one of the world’s most famous structures.
Crossing the bridge
Even though there is a sidewalk on the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s quite a challenge to cross the bridge. Not only is it almost 3km long, but it is a breathtaking 67 meter (220ft) above sea level. In extreme circumstances the bridge can sway almost 28ft (8 meter). This makes the bridge less sensible to external forces such as strong winds and earthquakes but it can make the crossing rather unpleasant. The views however are amazing.
An alternative to crossing the bridge on foot is driving by car – but don’t forget you’ll have to pay toll – or you can take one of the busses that connect San Francisco with Marin County. There is a bus stop right at the start of the bridge.
Getting to the bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is located at the Presidio Park and can easily be reached by bus or car. The most pleasant way to reach the bridge however is by walking either from the Marina District to the east or from Baker Beach to the west of the bridge. Both routes will lead you through a park, and especially the route along the east is very popular.
The best views
The Golden Gate Bridge is a spectacular sight which can be seen from many areas around San Francisco. Here are some locations from where you have great views on the bridge:
- South Vista Point. This is the most popular site, situated at the San Francisco end of the bridge.
- North Vista Point, located at the Marin County side of the bridge.
- Land’s End. Panoramic View from the northern tip of Lincoln Park
- Baker Beach at the Presidio Park.
- Conzelman Road. At the Marin County side; great view from an inlet near the bridge.
The Golden Gate is at its most enchanting in the morning when the bridge is often shrouded in mist. But the bridge is also alluring at night when the lighting makes it seem as if the spires of the towers dissolve in the darkness.