In 1868 a massive flood washed away major sections of the pass and bridge, resulting in a complete rebuild. Constant improvements and widening took place over the next 120 years. It was tarred between 1950 and 1953. The pass served the Eastern Cape community well; until 1971 it was the main national road linking Port Elizabeth with the Garden Route.
The pass starts at 229m at the eastern side and descends 140 vertical metres to the old bridge [89m ASL]. From here, in a single frame, you have a good view of the lovely old bridge as well as the towering concrete structure of the new bridge, commissioned in 1971. The ascent up the eastern side of the gorge is almost the same height as the descent. The average gradient works out at 1:15 with nothing steeper than 1:10.
The 1971 bridge was commissioned to span the 140 metre deep gorge. This bridge would capture the unenviable title of ‘Bridge of Death’ as only 12 days after opening, it claimed its first suicide victim. By the end of 2012 some 87 people had lost their lives by jumping off the bridge, as the new bridge has gathered a macabre attraction of unhappy and depressed souls. A multi million Rand camera monitoring system with a permanently manned counselling centre nearby was established in 2005 after a Johannesburg father lost his daughter to suicide at the bridge. To date, more than 20 people have subsequently been saved through this initiative. The Bridge of Death name tag is inexorably connected to the new Van Stadens bridge which looks down on the old pass. It has become a part of the overall history of the pass.