Travel & Day Trips

5 Surprising Facts About the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge, an iconic symbol of San Francisco and a marvel of engineering, has captivated millions of people since its opening on May 27, 1937.

While many are familiar with its striking appearance and impressive size, there are several lesser-known facts about this world-famous landmark. In this blog post, we’ll explore five surprising facts that will make you appreciate the Golden Gate Bridge in a whole new light.

It was almost a different color

When envisioning the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s hard to imagine it being any color other than its signature International Orange. However, the original plan called for it to be painted in black and yellow stripes.

This proposal was to increase visibility for passing ships in the dense fog that often envelops the San Francisco Bay. Luckily, Irving Morrow, the bridge’s consulting architect, suggested the now-iconic orange hue to complement the natural surroundings and make the structure more visible.

Illustration of what the bridge could have looked like with the original paint colors

The bridge was once a toll bridge for pedestrians

During its early years, the Golden Gate Bridge was not only a toll bridge for vehicles but also for pedestrians. When the bridge first opened, pedestrians were charged a fee of $0.05 (equivalent to around $0.94 today) to cross. The pedestrian toll was abolished on July 1, 1970, making it free for walkers and cyclists to enjoy the breathtaking views.

It’s a haven for wildlife

While the Golden Gate Bridge may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of wildlife, the area surrounding it is teeming with life.

Various species of seabirds, marine mammals, and even the endangered San Francisco garter snake can be found in the vicinity of the bridge. The bridge and nearby structures like Alcatrax also serve as nesting sites for Peregrine falcons, which can often be spotted soaring above the bay.

The bridge has its own weather system

The unique microclimate of the San Francisco Bay often creates its own weather system around the bridge. It’s not uncommon for one side of the bridge to be bathed in sunshine, while the other side is engulfed in fog.

This phenomenon occurs because the warm air from the California Central Valley meets the cool Pacific Ocean air near the bridge, causing the fog to form and roll in, sometimes in a matter of minutes.

It’s an engineering marvel that continually adapts to change

When the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with a main span of 4,200 feet. While it no longer holds that title, the bridge remains an engineering marvel that has continually evolved to meet modern demands.

For instance, the bridge has been retrofitted with various safety and technological upgrades, including seismic retrofitting and a moveable median barrier to improve traffic flow and safety.


The Golden Gate Bridge is not only an iconic landmark but also a fascinating example of human ingenuity, resilience, and adaptability.

These surprising facts offer a glimpse into the rich history and complexity of this engineering masterpiece. So, the next time you find yourself gazing at the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the story behind this iconic structure.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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