BASE jumpers Flock to Twin Falls, Idaho's Perrine Bridge
In the space between the Perrine Bridge and the scenic Snake River Canyon below, time stands still – if you’re in freefall after leaping from atop the 486-foot-tall bridge.
“From that point until you see a canopy open over your head is almost impossible to describe, that short period of time,” says Mark Kissner, a local BASE jumper and one of the sport’s rare veterans. “That’s usually the time that people like most about it: It takes short little seconds of time and turns them into something that is considerably longer.”
BASE jumpers strap parachutes on their backs and hurl themselves off fixed objects such as bridges and cliffs (the acronym stands for buildings, antennas, spans and earth). These thrill-seekers converge on Twin Falls from around the world, a pilgrimage of sorts, to the only place in America where they can legally jump off a bridge with no permit required.
“If you mention Idaho and the Perrine, they know exactly what bridge you mean,” Kissner says. “It’s certainly some place newer jumpers are all going to come visit. If you’ve gotten into jumping in the last five or six years, chances are you’ve come out here at least a few times.”
During any given weekend, the Perrine swarms with jump traffic, but once a year, the bridge is recast as a BASE-jumping mecca.
Thousands gather to watch those who put great faith in their parachutes make the jump for the Perrine Bridge Festival each September. Although the festival and other activities bring BASE jumping to the public eye, the sport remains relatively small with high turnover.
Kissner compares the sport to whitewater rafting, which was started by just a small core group but has evolved greatly over the years.
“It’s definitely expanding, but it’s still a really tiny sport,” he says. “Probably at any given time, I doubt there are even a thousand active jumpers in the country.”
“In some ways, it’s impossible to describe: From the point that you’ve left the object, you can’t turn back. You’re on your way,” Kissner says. “You’re certainly not worrying about anything else. It’s going to take away any other thoughts that you might have. It’s a pretty awesome thing.”