If the post title made you think WE might actually be parachuting off this bridge, then I have another bridge I’d like to sell ya! There is no way in hell we would jump off a bridge with a parachute – or cliff, out of an airplane, or anything else actually requiring a parachute. But it was spectacular to watch these crazy base jumpers stepping over the railing and leaping into space and a little sobering to see the headstone below memorializing the all too many who didn’t quite make it safely to their landing area.
First of all the Perrine Bridge is only 486 feet above the Snake River. Yep, that’s the same river Evil Kenevil attempted to jump over in his rocket powered motorcycle in 1974. The earthen ramp still stands on the south bank of the Snake and it’s about 8 miles east of the Perrine Bridge. Although he failed to traverse the Snake River Canyon as advertised, fortunately for him, his parachute did deploy and he floated to safety into the river below.
Most skydivers will tell you they like about 2500 feet to jump from. Base jumping usually refers to a building, or other solidly rooted jump site, significantly lower in altitude than parachuting out of an airplane. The bridge is definitely solid and the record for base jumping is from the 98-ft statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro, so one would think 486 feet would be a breeze – about a 10-15 second breeze actually from 490 feet is all the parachute time you should expect.
Twin Falls may be one of the few places in the United States that allows people to base jump freely and without a permit. So it is apparently quite common to see base jumping from the bridge. The bridge, originally built in 1927, was the tallest bridge in the world at that time. I.B. Perrine, who pushed for financing of the bridge (thus the name) was an early visionary that included the Magic Valley initiatives and paved the way for building the bridge years later.
We observed two typical styles of jumping too. The first is simply to deploy your chute after jumping and the other is to unpack and hold your chute partially open to allow for rapid deployment so that your free fall is reduced and glide time is improved.
We were lucky enough to catch several jumpers on film and they were lucky, or veteran enough to make their jumps without incident. It was amazingly entertaining to watch and you had to admire their pluck for a leap of faith, just under 500 feet high!
As the memorial on the riverbank below will attest to, however, the sport will always be a dangerous one. While the risks are considerable, the base jumpers all seem undeterred and for the rest of us…well, we’re glad they love doing it because we love watching them!
This is about as close as you’ll see us doing anything crazy off the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls Idaho.