The top 5 highest bridges

April 3, 2024

Whether 400 or 500 meters – no gorge is too deep for the world's highest bridges. We show you which are the top five and why they all span Chinese gorges.

When it comes to engineering marvels, the actual motives for their creation are often not necessarily of an urgent nature, but rather a question of prestige. When looking at the world's tallest bridges, however, we have to be fair and say that while such vanity may have played a role in their creation, the real reasons for their existence are more to be found in pragmatic considerations. Regardless of their causes, these feats of engineering construction remain astonishing – which, to be honest, is reason enough for us to take a look at the top 5 highest bridges below.

Our search inevitably leads us to China. Eight of the ten highest bridges in the world are located here – a ratio that remains roughly the same in terms of the top 100. The Middle Kingdom even claims the top five for itself. But why is that the case? In addition to the extremely mountainous regions with deep valleys, there is also a construction policy background.

Roadways and railroads in the form of bridges require much less land than land-based infrastructure and are therefore preferred in China. This saves around 2.9 hectares of land per kilometer of railroad line. In addition, important transportation routes can run through densely built-up areas without having to avoid buildings or cutting off urban areas from each other. The mostly prefabricated structures are also quick to build and easy to maintain.

Number 5: Yachi Bridge

In fifth place is the Yachi Bridge near Daguanzhen (Guizhou province) with a height of 434 meters. The cable-stayed bridge crosses the Yachi – a section of the Wu Jiang – as part of the Qianxi Expressway. Its longest span is 800 meters. Built in 2016, it was actually the fourth-highest bridge until 2020, when it was replaced by the Jinshajiang-Jin'an Bridge.

Number 4: Jinshajiang Bridge-Jin'an

At a height of 461 meters, the Jinshajiang-Jin'an Bridge (or simply Jin'an Bridge) has been carrying the Chengdu-Lijiang highway near Lijiang (Yunnan province) over the upper reaches of the Yangtze River – also known as Jinsha Jiang – since 2020. This makes it the fourth-highest bridge in the world. That is, at least sometimes. The structure is located above the Jinanqiao Dam, which sometimes dams up the river by 126 meters. At the highest water level, it only makes it to 16th place among the highest bridges. However, with a length of 1,673 meters and a span of 1,386 meters, it is still one of the longest suspension bridges in the world at any given time.

Number 3: Puli bridge

The next highest bridge, Puli Bridge, is also located in Yunnan Province at 485 meters. The 1,040-meter-long suspension bridge takes its name from the Puli Gorge near Pulixiang, over which it carries the Hangzhou-Ruili highway. The structure, which was completed in 2015, has a span of 628 meters. The hybrid structure combines different bridge designs. Between the pylons, it is designed as a steel aerodynamic box girder, which is connected to the suspension cables by hangers made of double steel rods. The two ends of the bridge in turn form reinforced concrete plate girder bridges, which are supported by reinforced concrete piers.

Number 2: Siduhe Bridge

The Siduhe Bridge near Yesanguan (Hubei province) comes pretty close to 500 meters high. At 496 meters, it was the highest bridge in the world from 2009 to 2016. It carries the Shanghai-Chongqing highway through the Siduhe valley along a length of 1,100 meters. If you include the anchorage of the suspension cables as well, it is 1,222 meters long. The span between the pylons is 900 meters. During the construction of the suspension bridge, the first suspension cable was flown over the gorge for the first time using a military rocket instead of an auxiliary suspension cable. The same technique was later used for the Puli Bridge.

© Istockphoto LP / Orientfootage

Number 1: Beipanjiang Bridge (Duge Bridge)

Just 13 kilometers away from number three and part of the same freeway to boot, the Beipanjiang Bridge (also known as Duge Bridge) rises 565 meters above the Beipan Jiang valley near Duge between the provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou. Since its opening in 2016, it has been by far the highest bridge in the world. The cable-stayed bridge has a total length of 1,341 meters, of which 720 meters make up the span. Similar to the Puli and Siduhe bridges, the part supported by the cables is a steel truss structure, while the two outer bridge sections are made of reinforced concrete beams.

© Istockphoto LP / Komjomo

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