Timeless Lowcountry Discovery

An exciting pass over water on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is one of the world’s most spectacular, heralding as much attention as the beautiful Holy City sights it connects. Spanning between downtown Charleston, aka the peninsula, and Mount Pleasant , it serves as the track for the well known Cooper River Bridge Run (more below.) This cable-stayed bridge over the Cooper River opened in 2005 to replace two obsolete cantilever truss bridges. The bridge has a main span of 1,546 feet, the third longest among cable-stayed bridges in the Western Hemisphere.

Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston South Carolina

Walking, running or biking across the bridge is an experience not to be missed. Grab your friends — or enjoy solo — and use the dedicated walking lane to enjoy some of the best views around Charleston. The six mile round trip span can start on either side. There is paid parking on the Mount Pleasant side in Waterfront Park, and free parking off East Bay Street downtown. Bicycles have the right of way and their own lane, so be aware of your surroundings.

Most people start on the Mount Pleasant side and walk to the second span and turn around. Try to start your trek in time to see the sun set over the Cooper River. And take your camera for some beautiful shots of the Charleston Harbor. From the top of the bridge you can spot Sullivan’s Island, Mount Pleasant, and downtown Charleston all in one vista.

If walking isn’t your thing, consider hopping aboard the Charleston Water Taxi, operating from downtown at the Waterfront Park and South Carolina Aquarium it takes you across the Cooper River to Patriots Point and the Charleston Harbor Marina, a lovely resort where shrimp rolls make it worth the trip. Don’t forget your binoculars – the bridge construction is worth a closer look from down below!

The Ravenel Bridge in Charleston SC host the annual Cooper River Bridge run, the third largest 10K race in the world.
©LBC_Blessed Instagram

Don’t Miss the Annual Bridge Run: April 2, 2022

“Not just a race, it’s an experience!”

For world-class competition in one of the most unique settings, join the Charleston community for it’s annual Bridge Run, the third largest 10-K foot race in the world — and wheelchair division race — promoting physical activity and a healthy lifestyle through education and opportunity.

In support of the Lowcountry through its Charity Connection and Grants programs, the Cooper River Bridge Run contributes ninety-two cents ($.92) of every dollar towards its charitable mission, generating tremendous impact on the Hospitality and Tourism industry, and community at large.

Click here for registration and more information.

Crossing the Cooper in History

Early 1700s ferry service from Charles Towne to East Cooper was mule operated.
Transport to fertile East Cooper lands from Charles Towne was made by mule-operated ferry. ©YesterdayToday.net

Through the early Charles Towne settlement days, population growth spawned the need to expand into adjoining lands, connecting the colony to fertile East Cooper and Wando River crop lands. Neighboring Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms’ beaches held recreational appeal. 

In the early 1700s, ferries became formally regulated after the establishment of the Royal Carolina Colony. The Codner family — who owned East Cooper waterfront land critical for river passage to the peninsula — was chartered for ferry service in August 1731. Later year operators included the Scott, Clements, and Hibben families who provided mule, then steam ferry services. For more history on early ferry operations, the Daniel Island History Society presents detailed history here.

The best way to see the Charleston harbor is from the Cooper River bridge.
In 1929, the 2 mile John P. Grace Memorial Bridge replaced ferry service between Charleston and East Cooper lands. ©Tichnor Collection | DigitalCommonweatlh.org

The East Cooper area grew and Mount Pleasant expanded as peninsula residents sought escape from downtown’s summer heat. Cooler river breezes in the Old Village’s high bluffs led to an influx that further established a significant fishing and shrimping industry along Shem Creek.  

As motorized automobiles became popular, improved river crossings were needed and the ferry system entered its demise. Enter Shortridge Hardesty of New York City whose cantilever truss bridge design opened for passage in 1929. Today many an older resident will share the marvel and fear felt by all who first crossed the narrow two-lane, two-way John P. Grace Memorial Bridge, named in tribute to Charleston’s former mayor. With its steep inclines, dip, and mid-way curve, it was likened to a giant roller-coaster. As testament, Model T Ford drivers had to operate in reverse because it was the only gear sufficient to manage the steep climb. 

The Grace and Pearman bridges in Charleston South Carolina were replaced in 2005 by the Ravenel Bridge, the Western hemisphere's third longest cable-stayed bridge.
In 1966 the Silas N. Pearman bridge was constructed parallel to the Grace bridge to handle overflow traffic.©Richard T. Bryant

After several decades, further population growth required greater crossing capability. In 1966 the Silas N. Pearman Bridge opened, similar in engineering and aesthetic to the Grace Bridge, but with 3 much broader lanes — one of which functioned as two-way given the traffic hour, or accident need. Named after the former Chief Highway Commission, the bridge’s third lane was later designated for heavy load trucks when the older Grace Bridge was deemed unsafe for more than autos.

And so we come to the current modern marvel, the 2005 Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. Not only did the newest bridge accommodate growing traffic needs, the Charleston harbor benefited from the bridges higher water passage capacity, allowing the the world’s largest modern container ships to access upriver terminals of the nation’s now fourth-largest container port.

The Ravenel bridge in historic downtown Charleston SC is designed to withstand shipping accidents and natural disasters.
Twenty years in the making, costing $700mil +, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge quickly became a modern source of pride and acclaim for the south’s most charming Holy City.©Yvonne Hughley Price | @yprice57 Instagram

A favorite subject for photographers, the Ravenel bridge quickly became a modern source of pride and acclaim for the south’s most charming Holy City.

To see more of the exact bridge location, and how to access from downtown and Mount Pleasant, find it on our Charleston area map guide here.