China’s Impressive ‘River Highway’ Lets Motorists Drive Through the Middle of a River

A mountainous river valley in China’s Hubei province is home to one of the Asian country’s most impressive pieces of infrastructure – a highway bridge that runs through the middle of a river.

Finalized in 2015, China’s ‘river highway’ is widely regarded as an infrastructural wonder.  Designed to link the town of Gufuzhen in Xingshan county to the main highway running between Shanghai and Chengdu in southwestern China, this unique suspended highway doesn’t make much sense at first glance. Why have a massive bridge built in the middle of the Xiangxi River, when you could just have it run alongside it, on land? In fact, there was already a road running along the river, which meant it could obviously be done, so why not build the highway that way? Well, apparently, Chinese engineers decided that a suspended highway running along the middle of the river was not only cheaper to build, but more efficient.

Photo: Xinhua/YouTube

It turns out that building a highway through a complex mountainous landscape like Hubei’s Xiangxi River Valley is harder than it sounds. It involves digging miles of tunnels through rock, relocating people living by the edge of the river, and affecting the local flora and fauna. After doing the math, a team of engineers showed that building a highway bridge over the river was both cheaper and faster than building the highway on land. Plus it solved all the other issues as well.


Obviously, building a 4.4-kilometer suspended road that follows the curves of the Xiangxi River wasn’t exactly a cheap undertaking, but it was apparently better than the alternative. The 440 million yuan ($71 million) spent on this unique river highway are apparently several times less than what a land highway in this valley would have cost. Plus, it shortens the time it takes to drive from Gufuzhen to the main highway from over an hour to just 20 minutes.


In the 8 years since its inauguration, China’s river highway has become somewhat of a tourist attraction, with millions traveling to Hubei to experience driving through the middle of a river and taking in the breathtaking sights.


This river highway is just one of the Chinese wonders of engineering we’ve featured here on OC over the years.