Appalachian Trail Footbridge Reopens at Harpers Ferry

The Appalachian Trail footbridge at Harpers Ferry reopened on Friday, July 3, months after it was damaged when freight cars toppled across.

“The Goodloe E. Byron Memorial Pedestrian Walkway (footbridge) across the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry is open! Park users are now able to cross between Harpers Ferry and the C&O Canal towpath and Maryland Heights Trail,” Harpers Ferry National Historic Park posted on its Facebook page.

The footbridge across the Potomac River, linking West Virginia and Maryland, had been closed since it was damaged in a train derailment on Dec. 21.

The Federal Railroad Administration determined in a report released in June that an engineer error caused the CSX train to derail, with two freight cars toppling onto the footbridge and into the river, the Associated Press reported. The engineer used excessive force to make a movement with the brakes still applied, the report said. Seven freight cars in total derailed.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which oversees the footbridge, reached an agreement with CSX in late May to repair the footbridge.

The footbridge is the only AT crossing at the Potomac River considered safe for hikers, and is used by thousands of hikers annually. Its closure left thru-hikers wondering how they would get across the river.

Private shuttles provided service for some hikers, while others followed highway bridges considered unsafe for pedestrian crossing.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy initially recommended using private shuttles to cross the river, but later asked hikers not to use the AT because of COVID-19.

Featured photo courtesy of Kadi Hirth

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