Hell Gate Bridge is one of those urban explorer favorites–possibly because it includes an added level of danger: it’s not a pedestrian bridge but an Amtrak one that carries the train company’s electrified services to and from points north of New York City. Instagrammer @hakimms recently shared with us his photographs atop the unique bridge.

Hell Gate Bridge-Urban Exploration-Photography-Queens-NYC-004Photo by @hakimms

Geographically Hell Gate Bridge connects Astoria, Queens to the southern part of Randall’s Island, and for those that have seen the film Inside Llewyn Davis, the bridge stars as the background of a scene. Even architects love it–on a boat tour with Open House New York, it was called out as one of the important architectural sites on the East River. So noticeable is this functional piece of architecture that even a repainting in 2012 caused controversy: “It should be the jewel of New York City, but instead it’s turned into eight shades of lavender,” New York City coucilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. told The New York Times.

Hell Gate Bridge-Urban Exploration-Photography-Queens-NYC-003Photo by @hakimms

The name Hell Gate comes from the Dutch “Hellegat,” which refers to the dangerous waters in this area of the East River. The same architects that built the Queensboro Bridge, Henry Hornbostel and engineer Gustav Lindenthal built this one, and were acclaimed for achieving the sheer size of the bridge. According to NYC Parks, the elements “were considered almost excessive for the time.”

Hell Gate Bridge-Urban Exploration-Photography-Queens-NYC-002The heavy stone piers of Hell Gate have been visited by graffiti artists many a time. Photo by @hakimms

Three days after the bridge opened, World War I began, and the viaduct, built originally for freight traffic, was moving troops to the port cities of the country.

Hell Gate Bridge-Urban Exploration-Photography-Queens-NYC-006Photo by @hakimms

For the less adventurous inclined, there’s a nice view of the Hell Gate Bridge from the Astoria Pool, a WPA Pool just adjacent to the bridge, while the Hell Gate Pathway is a pedestrian and bike path running through the arcade. And obviously, we don’t encourage any of your own exploration up on this bridge. Climbing heights + high speed trains + swirling currents = you get the picture.
Next, take a look at the George Washington Bridge when it’s all lit up, which only happens unannounced a few times a year. Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.