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 is the state with the most 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. This places the counties as having the third highest number of bridges in the entire United States, only behind Parke County, Indiana and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania!
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 divide 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. Sides and roofs protected the beams and timbers that served as key bridge supports. Less exposure to adverse weather conditions meant the bridges would hold up much better year after year.
Other explanations include:
- The covered bridges resembled barns so animals would be calm when passing through them.
- Having covers kept snow off the bridges and made for less maintenance in the winter months after the invention of automobiles.
- The bridge trusses were unsightly to many travelers, so adding sides and roofs created a much more aesthetically pleasing structure.
- To provide a place of 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
Despite roofs and sides playing an important role in preserving key support beams, the earliest winters with covered bridges brought another challenge. In the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, workers would be paid to shovel snow onto bridge floors to enable winter horse and sleigh traffic. If the rest of the roads in the area were snow-covered, travelers would have utilized a horse-drawn sleigh in lieu of the traditional carriage to get around. Without snow covering the floorboards of the bridges, crossing them in a sleigh would otherwise have been extremely difficult.
A past resident of the area, Donald L. Diseroad, recalled his father using a rented horse and sleigh in the early 1900's to complete his rural mail route when the roads were snow covered. He also noted that in the late 1800's, his grandfather John Diseroad worked odd jobs throughout the year. One of his odd jobs in the winter was shoveling snow down on the bridge floors.
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!
At the same time, plan to make a weekend out of your visit. There are plenty of wonderful things to see in do in the rest of the county, including stunning fall foliage, State Parks, hiking, biking, river and lake sports, historical walking tours of the area towns, and much more. Often, there are also special events and festivals happening every weekend throughout the region. For more information, please contact the Columbia Montour Visitors Bureau at 570-784-8279 or head over to our "Request a Brochure" page to get more information. We hope to see you soon!
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 nine years and have featured the East & West Paden bridges (2 times), the Knoebels Bridge, Keefer Mills Bridge, Esther Furnace Bridge, Stillwater Bridge, the Josiah Hess Bridge, the Rupert Bridge, and most recently in 2019, the Kramer Bridge. The 2020 edition of the puzzle will be released this fall.
- 2020 Covered Bridge Puzzle -
The Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau is pleased to announce the continuance of their annual 500-piece Covered Bridge Puzzle series, this year with a special 10th Anniversary edition featuring the iconic Twin Covered Bridges.
The East Paden and West Paden bridges, known more commonly as the Twin Bridges, are located on Huntington Creek in Fishing Creek Township, east of Forks, off Winding Road, east of Pennsylvania Route 487. The Twin Bridges were constructed in 1884 by W. C. Pennington for $720 and are named after John Paden, who operated a nearby sawmill. Twin Bridges County Park was created in 1963 when a new road, 1020, bypassed the structures. The original West Paden was washed away by flood waters in June 2006. It was reconstructed in 2008. The Twin Bridges are one of only two sets of Twin Bridges in the United States.
The winning image from this year’s annual covered bridge photo contest was selected to be featured for the anniversary puzzle. This year’s winning photographer was Tony Berard from Conyngham. Tony taught mathematics at King’s College for forty years. During breaks from teaching, he experimented with travel photography. Upon his retirement in 2012, he had more time to pursue photography as a serious hobby, and he joined the Hazleton Camera Club. Tony and his wife enjoy visiting and photographing the historic covered bridges of Columbia and Montour counties.
The 2020 Twin Bridges 10th Anniversary puzzles will be arriving this fall and will be available at the Visitors Bureau Welcome Center, 121 Papermill Road in Bloomsburg. The Visitors Bureau is now taking pre-orders for the puzzles – cost is $15, tax included. Payment is not due at the time of pre-order; those who have pre-ordered will be contacted when the puzzles arrive to process payment and arrange method of pick-up. Once they’ve arrived, puzzles can be picked up in person at the Welcome Center during business hours. They can also be shipped anywhere in the United States for an additional shipping charge. Individuals interested in getting on the list to purchase one or more of the 2020 anniversary puzzles may call the Columbia-Montour Welcome Center at 570-784-8279. Current Welcome Center hours are Monday – Friday from 10 AM – 2 PM. A limited quantity of puzzles will be available on a first-come, first-served basis; pre-orders are highly recommended. Each puzzle in the Covered Bridge Puzzle series is a collector’s item and sold-out editions are not re-produced.
Two dollars from each puzzle sale will be made by the Visitors Bureau to the Columbia County Covered Bridge Association for the continued preservation of the area’s historic bridges. 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 recognize 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.
- 2020 PHOTO CONTEST - CLOSED: CONTEST WILL RETURN IN SPRING OF 2021
2020 marks the 10th anniversary of our beloved covered bridge puzzle series! To commemorate this milestone, the 10th anniversary photo contest and puzzle will feature the very popular Twin Covered Bridges once again. The Visitors Bureau’s 2020 Covered Bridge Photo Contest will accept submissions from April 1 - June 1, 2020.
How to Enter:
- Email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org within the dates above. MUST INCLUDE photographer’s name in the photo's title.
- OR post your photo on Instagram using #CMVBPuzzle2020. MUST INCLUDE: Photographer’s name. If selected as a finalist, you will be contacted for a high quality version of your Instagram submission.
Rules and Regulations:
- For 2020's special 10th anniversary contest, all photos must feature one or both of the Twin Covered Bridges (East and West Paden), located in Columbia County.
- All photographers who have submitted photos of the Twin Bridges to any of the past five years' contests will have their previously submitted photos automatically entered in this year's special anniversary contest.
- For 2020's special 10th anniversary contest, only one new photo submission per person will be accepted.
- 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 as their 2020 puzzle and in future marketing efforts.
- All photos must be high-resolution (at least 2000 pixels on either side).
The top overall photo will be selected by staff of the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau to be featured as our 10th anniversary 2020 Covered Bridge Puzzle. The winning photographer will have their name and a short bio published on the puzzle box. The winner will also receive a free puzzle and will be announced to local press outlets. $2 from each sale is donated to the Columbia County Covered Bridge Association. Each puzzle is a limited edition, and can be kept as collector’s items.