Walk on the wild side at Cliffwalk

Cliffwalk, the latest heart-stopping attraction to debut at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, opened this month



Cliffwalk, the latest heart-stopping attraction to debut at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, opened this month.

At 91 metres above Capilano River in North Vancouver, Cliffwalk is an adrenaline-pumping series of narrow 50-centimetre-wide walkways, split into ascending and descending staircases, bridges and viewing platforms.

A signature U-shaped bridge cantilevered over the river canyon and glass-bottomed decks highlight the 213 m journey and allow guests to feel as if they are walking on air while offering spectacular river, canyon and rainforest views.

Each section of Cliffwalk has been custom crafted and no two sections are alike. Educational signage with ecological information from the David Suzuki Foundation provides guests with background on the previously unexplored environment. Fixed handrails are supported by steel beams cantilevered from 16 anchor points in the granite rock face of the canyon.

John Stibbard, vice president of operations for Capilano Suspension Bridge, was inspired to create Cliffwalk after learning from guest surveys and focus groups that visitors were interested in experiencing and learning more about Capilano Canyon itself. In May 2007, after rappelling down the east face of the canyon, Stibbard knew he found the right location to create a thrilling, ecological experience for park visitors.

“Our vision is to create experiences that people are amazed by,” says Stibbard. “Cliffwalk delivers a definite ‘wow factor’ by offering an entirely unique and exciting way to appreciate the magnificent beauty of the canyon.”

“We’re absolutely thrilled to invite the world to take the Cliffwalk journey and experience previously unexplored areas of the park,” adds Nancy Stibbard, owner and CEO of the Capilano Group of Companies.

The design and construction of Cliffwalk emphasized minimizing the attraction’s ecological footprint and limiting overall environmental impact on the site. To protect the delicate natural environment, a dedicated team of builders handcrafted the bridge and walkway sections offsite, assembling them onsite with minimally invasive construction equipment. The majority of the attraction is constructed from steel, which is North America’s top recycled material.

In addition, three other major material groups were used in the construction of Cliffwalk: concrete and glass, which are recyclable materials, and timber, a renewable resource.

With an environmental footprint of just 11 square metres, Cliffwalk’s route is unobtrusive as it winds its way alongside the cliff through rainforest vegetation. Referencing information provided by the David Suzuki Foundation, signage along the route reveals the interaction between water, granite, salmon, flora and fauna, broadening the visitor experience.

The unique experience of Cliffwalk is the culmination of four years of innovative design and cutting-edge technology. In total, 12 different designs were tested for Cliffwalk by engineers who rappelled down the cliff face, before deciding on the final format of the attraction today.

Due to its one-of-a-kind design and site constraints, each piece of Cliffwalk has been custom built in an intricate step-by-step process of surveying, engineering and fabricating.

Just over half a kilometre of rock bolts were drilled into the cliff face to reinforce the rock and to secure Cliffwalk to the 160-million-year-old granite that forms the canyon walls. About 40.38 tons of steel was constructed using a first-of-its-kind technique totally relying upon 3D digital information to establish the geometry for each piece of Cliffwalk.

The walkways are held together by 1,825 bolts and the hand railings are made of 365 linear metres of stainless steel. Cliffwalk can safely support a combined mass of just over 45,359 kilograms when operating at peak operational capacity.

The $4.5 million Cliffwalk project was managed by Marc Luc Lalumiere, who also built Capilano Suspension Bridge Park’s award-winning Treetops Adventure and constructed Moraine Lake Lodge and Cathedral Mountain Lodge, sister properties in the Capilano Group of Companies.