The Longest Footbridge in the World

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One of the most unusual wild animal sanctuaries in the world is located in Keenesburg, Colorado, where visitors stroll high above the animals on what has now been certified as the world’s longest footbridge by the Guinness World Records organization.

After doing prior survey work for the Wild Animal Sanctuary, located at 1946 County Road 53, Flatirons Inc., Surveying, Engineering & Geomatics was selected by the organization’s Executive Director, Pat Craig, to be the official measurers of the 1.15-mile pedestrian walkway. Measurements were taken in the presence of an official from the Guinness World Records, to officially establish it as the world’s longest footbridge.

This non-profit facility has broken new ground in the care and housing of such rescued animals. One of their unique ideas was the use of an elevated pedestrian walkway for viewing the animals on the ground below. Animals see visitors at their own ground level as intruders into their territory, triggering the "fight or flight" response. By using elevated walkways, however, the animals below do not see elevated visitors as a threat to their territory, and can be observed in a much more relaxed condition. (See mile-into-the-wild.) Before the walkway was constructed, the facility was closed to the public for over 20 years to protect the animals from stress.

The "Mile Into The Wild Walkway" gives over 200,000 visitors per year unprecedented views of more than 450 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other large carnivores roaming freely in natural habitats.

On October 31, 2016, Flatirons arrived at the Wild Animal Sanctuary for the official Guinness World Records measurements. The field crew consisted of myself, Ed Bristow, JD, PS (Surveyor of record); James Z. Gowan, PS, CFedS; Jason Hannahoe, PS; and Scott Lyttle. Office support was provided by Flatirons Project Manager, Tyler Henderson. Field personnel were accompanied by TWAS Chief Operations Officer, Casey Craig, whose father, Pat Craig established the sanctuary, and the Guinness judge. Members of the survey crew mentioned several times what a great life the animals had and how relaxed they seemed.

Upon completion of the measurements taken using Trimble GPS and Robotic Total Station equipment, we all sat in the newly finished Welcome Center building to complete our calculations. For verification, the measurements were checked and tallied using three different methods by three different crew members, and then compared. The final length of the elevated portions of the walkway was given in U.S. survey feet to the nearest 1/100th of a foot, and meters to the nearest centimeter. It was important that the result be certified on the day the measurements were taken, as this was the grand opening day for the new Welcome Center, and the judge was prepared to issue the certificate at the grand opening ceremony if the certification revealed that this was indeed the longest elevated footbridge in the world.

In what can become the mundane world of land survey measurement and staking, this particular project has become a rewarding highlight in the careers of those involved. Crew member Scott Lyttle was even given the distinct honor of being "marked" by a tiger as he occupied a control point near that tiger’s fence. Very few land surveyors can claim that distinction. That memory will last a lifetime, as will the entire experience for all of us.

Edgar T. Bristow, PS has been a surveyor for over 40 years, and has served as the President of Flatirons, Inc. in Boulder, Colorado since 2000, working alongside Company CEO and NSPS Director for Colorado, John B. Guyton, PS. Ed is also a practicing attorney, author and teacher.

A 8.483Mb PDF of this article as it appeared in the magazine—complete with images—is available by clicking HERE