Roads & Bridges Illustration

Inca Empire for Kids
Roads & Bridges

The Inca road were very well built. They belonged to the government. The Incas never invented the wheel. Yet, in less than a hundred years, the Incas built over 14,000 miles of road. Roads connected every piece of the empire. Some sections of road were over 24 feet wide. Some sections were so steep that the Incas built stonewalls along the edge to prevent people from falling off cliffs. Many sections were paved.  

Who could use the roads? Although the roads were built by the common people, once they were built, the common people were not allowed to use them unless they had special permission from the government to do so. If a commoner used the roads without permission, they were tossed off a mountain. The roads were used by the nobles, the military, the roadrunners (the Inca postmen) and by traders who had received permission. There were road signs along the road, so for those who could use the road, you always knew where you were.


  1. Suspension Bridges: The Andes are sharp ragged mountains full of deep gorges. As part of their system of roads, the Incas built suspension bridges over the gorges. If a bridge broke, local workers rushed to fix it, so that travel could continue unimpeded. The Incas built hundreds of bridges. Every other year, bridges were replaced. The cables that held these bridges safety in place were five feet thick. They had to strong to hold the weight. 
  1. Pontoon Bridges: The Incas made pontoon bridges from reed boats to cross the creeks and rivers.
  1. Pulley Baskets: In places, they constructed pulley baskets - to use these, travelers would climb inside a basket, which was then pulled to the other side of an especially deep gorge or to cross a river.

The Army:  Because the roads ran everywhere in the empire, the army could quickly stop rebellions or protect people from intruders. The army could bring supplies to victims of natural disasters. Young men ran along the roads carrying messages back to the capital.

Storehouses:  Storehouses stored food, clothing, and weapons for the military. Some of the storehouses were so huge that they could hold enough supplies and food for 25,000 men at a time. The Incas built hundreds of storehouses along the roads. Llama trains collected food from the farms and moved it to the city and to storerooms along the road.

Inns/Rest houses: Rest houses were built every few miles. Travelers could spend the night, or cook a meal, or feed their llamas.

Workers: As the empire expanded, roads were quickly built to keep the empire connected. First the engineers would go in and make sure the roads were properly laid out. Then the workers arrived.  Building roads was one of the ways farmers and common people could pay their "service tax" or labor tax.

These roads were so well built that many of the Inca roads are still in use today.


Incas for Kids