Covered Bridges

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!

Can’t get enough of our covered bridges?

Covered Bridge Photo Contest & Puzzles

Each year, the Visitors Bureau holds a photo contest to produce a 500-piece puzzle featuring one of the area covered bridges. Limited-edition puzzles have been produced the past six years and have featured the East & West Paden bridges (2 times), the Knoebels Bridge, Keefer Mills Bridge, Esther Furnace Bridge, Stillwater Bridge and most recently, the Josiah Hess Bridge.

2018 PHOTO CONTEST ANNOUNCED!

The Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau’s 2018 Covered Bridge Photo Contest begins March 5 and ends June 1.

How to Enter:

  1. Email your photos to skiefer@cmvb.com within the dates above. Submitted photos should be labeled as follows: YourLastName_BridgeName_2018.jpg.
  2. Alternatively, you can post your photo entries on Instagram using the hashtag #CMVBPuzzle2018. YOU MUST INCLUDE the photographer’s name and the name of the covered bridge. If selected as a finalist, the CMVB will contact you for a higher quality image.

Rules and Regulations:

  1. All photos must be of bridges located within Columbia or Montour County.
  2. All photos must be owned by the person submitting them. By submitting, you are giving the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau permission to use your photo in future marketing efforts, and as the puzzle if selected as the winning image.
  3. All photos must be high-resolution (no smaller than 1000 x 1000 pixels).
  4. A limit of FOUR photos per person will be accepted.
  5. By entering images into the contest, entrants agree to allow the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau to utilize photographs in continued regional marketing efforts and in future covered bridge photo contest advertisements.

The staff of the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau will select the winning image to be featured as the 2018 limited edition Columbia & Montour Counties Covered Bridge Puzzle. No entries will be accepted after June 1st. The overall winner and several honorable mentions will be announced following the final submission deadline. The winner will receive a free puzzle and their name and short bio will be printed on the puzzle, as well as on this page and on the CMVB’s social media.  Each puzzle is a limited edition item, and can be kept as collector’s items. Only 250 puzzles are produced each year.

The puzzle is released in September and sold at the Bloomsburg Fair, the Covered Bridge & Arts Festival, and at the CMVB Welcome Center. $2 from each sale is donated to the Columbia County Covered Bridge Association. 

2017 Winners

The Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce the 2017 Covered Bridge Photo Contest winners. The overall winning image was featured as the 2017 Covered Bridge Puzzle. 

2017 Covered Bridge Photo Contest Winner – Bob Erlsten; Josiah Hess Bridge

Bob Erlsten’s snapshot of the Josiah Hess Bridge in Columbia County was selected as the overall winner. Bob is a lifelong resident of the area who lives in rural Montour County with his wife and several four-legged companions. An avid outdoorsman, Bob enjoys nature photography with a focus on wildlife and landscapes.  He has photographed all of the covered bridges in Columbia and Montour Counties at one time or another with the Josiah Hess Bridge being ones of his favorites.

Margie Hunsinger: Richards Bridge; 2nd Place

Several other photographers were recognized in this year’s contest: Margie Hunsinger submitted the 2nd place photograph of the Richards Bridge, Kim Jo Hess was awarded 3rd place with her photo of the Josiah Hess Bridge, and Brandy Whitenight and Julie Jones received honorable mentions.  The Visitors Bureau would like to thank everyone who submitted photos for the contest, as there were a record number of submitted photos this year.

There are still very limited quantities of the 2017 Josiah Hess puzzle. These puzzles may be purchased at the Visitors Bureau Welcome Center, 121 Papermill Road in Bloomsburg. 

The Visitors Bureau’s covered bridge puzzles are collector’s items and make for a great birthday or Christmas present.

Kim Jo Hess: Josiah Hess Bridge; 3rd Place

A donation of $2 from every puzzle sold will be made by the Bureau to the Columbia County Covered Bridge Association to go toward restoration and preservation of our local covered bridge treasures.

The Columbia County Covered Bridge Association restores, preserves, and advocates for the covered bridges of Columbia County for historical and recreational purposes.  Their purpose is simple: they recognized the historic importance of the covered bridges as a public treasure to be available to and enjoyed by the public and the important part they play in tourism. This non-profit association protects all of our covered bridges not only for today, but also for future generations.

To order your puzzle over the phone (shipping charges will be added if you do not plan to pick them up in person when the arrive in the fall), please call 1-800- 847-4810.

Covered Bridge Bus Tours

Come join our bus tours of the bridges! The Visitors Bureau offers a bus tour each spring and several bus tours in the fall (associated with the Covered Bridge & Arts Festival).

Spring Covered Bridge Bus Tour

Have you longed to see many of the nineteenth-century covered bridges Columbia County has to offer, but didn’t want to travel off the beaten path alone?  If you are looking for a delightful and informative day touring our historic covered bridges, please join the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau for its fifth annual Covered Bridge Bus Tour on Saturday, May 19th, 2018.

Hop on the bus at the Visitors Bureau office at 121 Papermill Road in Bloomsburg to begin a historical adventure. Guests can unwind as the guided ride meanders through the picturesque Central Pennsylvania countryside to visit 13 of the area’s covered bridges.  Symbols of small-town America, these covered bridges coax travelers off the beaten path to explore little streams and forgotten dirt roads. At each stop, there will be opportunities for leisurely exploration and for taking photographs. Enjoy a picnic lunch provided by the Visitors Bureau at one of the only two twin covered bridges in the United States.

The entire outing costs $25 per person. The tour will begin at 9:30 a.m. and end around 3:30 p.m. back at the Visitors Bureau. For more information about the Covered Bridge Bus Tour or to reserve your spot on the bus, please call the Visitors Bureau Welcome Center at 570-784-8279 OR 570-284-4455. Seats sell out quickly, so do not wait until the last minute to reserve. PLEASE NOTE – There will be NO return of reservation money for cancellations after May 4th.

Fall Bus Tours

This year’s Fall Bus Tours will be held on Friday, October 5th at 10 AM and and also on Sunday, October 7th at 11 AM and 12:30 PM.

Tickets are $20 each. The tour lasts about 2.5-3 hours with stops at 4 bridges: Esther Furnace, Rupert, East & West Paden Twin Bridges, and Stillwater.  The tour will pass at least 4 additional bridges, but there will not be time allotted to stop and get off the bus at the additional bridges.  The bus is NOT handicapped accessible, and riders will need to be able to get up the three steps of the bus without assistance.  There will be step-on guides on each bus to provide further information about the bridges and a general history of the area.  Tickets will not be mailed in advance, and will need picked up at Pavilion H at Knoebels at least 30 minutes prior to departure.  Any tickets not picked up 10 minutes prior to departure will be resold to those waiting in line.  Pavilion H is located right off of the parking lot as you enter the Covered Bridge Festival.  There will be a large information sign on the front of the pavilion.

REMEMBER, allow for plenty of time to get into the park.  Saturday traffic can be backed up for 2-3 hours to get into the parking lot.  NO cancellations after September 12th. No exceptions.

Reservations are first come, first served, and spots are limited. Call 570-784-8279 for more information or to reserve your spot.