History & Overview
Of the nearly 14,000 authentic wooden covered bridges that once existed in the United States, less than 900 remain. Over the years, many covered bridges have been destroyed by fire, flooding, or vandalism. The majority of the others simply collapsed due to age and disrepair, and some were torn down to make way for newer iron bridges.
Pennsylvania has the highest number of covered bridges remaining in the country, with approximately 200 bridges. Columbia and Montour counties are home to the towns of Benton, Berwick, Bloomsburg, and Danville – not to mention 25 of the state’s total covered bridges. By area, the counties have one of the highest concentrations of covered bridges in the world. No two covered bridges are alike and each one has its own history, personality, and story to tell. Columbia County alone has 19 bridges. Montour County has two covered bridges, and four additional bridges span the border between Columbia & Northumberland counties.
Why Were Bridges Covered?
Many reasons are suggested for covering bridges. One generally accepted reason is protection from weather and wood rot in order to make sure the bridges lasted longer. Other explanations include:
- The covered bridges resembled barns so animals would be calm when passing through them.
- Covers kept snow off the bridge and made for less maintenance in the winter months.
- To cover up unsightly bridge trusses.
- To provide shelter for travelers during storms.
From an engineer’s viewpoint, adding a roof to a bridge added stability and strengthened the entire structure. A more romantic utilization of covered bridges was as a location for courting couples to meet. Covered bridges are also known as “kissing bridges” for that very reason!
The stories that this bridge could tell
Are numerous and happy and sad
Each could fill a book or two
With the experiences it has had
From “The Old Covered Bridge” by Doug Frederick
Planning to Visit the Bridges?
If you are planning to visit our iconic covered bridges, your first step would be to obtain our free Covered Bridges of Columbia and Montour Counties brochure and driving map. This comprehensive publication includes all 25 area covered bridges, including a detailed driving map and turn-by- turn directions. The brochure will take you on a historical and educational journey along our scenic back roads to visit the beloved bridges. To get your free copy, visit our “Request a Brochure” page or by stopping in to the Visitors Bureau Welcome Center (121 Papermill Road, Bloomsburg).. You can elect to complete the entire driving tour or just go out and visit a few of the bridges. Venture out at your own pace and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape and covered bridges!