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. You may also elect to sign up for our brand-new mobile Covered Bridge Passport (details below), and you'll be ready to hit the trail in no time!
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!
Begin Your Covered Bridge Adventure!
Ready to visit our twenty-five historic covered bridges in person? Sign up for our brand new Covered Bridge Passport (it's FREE!) to help you along your journey. Using the passport will also make you eligible for some great prizes. Everyone who visits at least 13 bridges and checks in using our passport will be mailed a special embroidered Covered Bridge patch to commemorate your accomplishment - completely FREE. And for those enterprising individuals who check in at all 25 of our bridges, you'll be entered to win a $750 grand prize gift card. One lucky winner will be drawn from all qualified travelers at the end of 2022. More details for 2022 to follow shortly!
2021 WINNER: Peggy Timm from Macedon, NY
388 passport goers, 37 individuals completed all 25 stops. Congratulations!
Your visit will help preservation efforts! Each bridge you check in at on your passport journey at will bring renovations on the Stillwater Covered Bridge closer to reality. After an overall passport check-in milestone has been reached, a $50,000 donation will be made to the Columbia County Covered Bridge Association to complete large-scale restoration work on the Stillwater Bridge.
Ready to get started? Tap the "Sign Up" button in the red box below to get started!
Passport photography credit: Jim Andrews
Fall Covered Bridge Bus Tours
CHECK BACK IN SUMMER OF 2022 FOR UPDATED INFO!
Want to enjoy a guided tour of several of the area's covered bridges this fall? Visit the area during next year's Covered Bridge & Arts Festival at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, dates TBD, and get tickets for one of three different bus tours! Each tour will be lead by a local resident step-on guide with extensive knowledge about the area's covered bridges. Tickets are $20 and last approximately 3 hours. Bus tours depart from and return back to the Festival.
Bus Tour Dates/Times:
TBD FOR 2022
Cost: $20 per seat
Approximate length of trip: 3 hours
Seating is limited and typically sells out early. Please make reservations as soon as possible. Pre-payment is required to book your seat. Tickets must be picked up at the CMVB info booth (located at the entrance of the Education Building) at least 30 minutes prior to departure. Guests will board the bus at the Gate 2 entrance. Buses are NOT handicap accessible.
Reserve your spot over the phone with a credit card payment! Either call 570-784-8279 to get signed up or mail in this form with payment via mail. Make checks payable to Columbia Montour Visitors Bureau.
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 ten years and have featured the East & West Paden bridges, the Knoebels Bridge, Keefer Mills Bridge, Esther Furnace Bridge, Stillwater Bridge, Josiah Hess Bridge, Rupert Bridge, Kramer Bridge, and most recently in 2020, a special Twin Bridges 10th Anniversary Puzzle. The 2021 edition of the puzzle will be released this fall, and will be based on the winner of this year's photo contest.
- 2021 PHOTO CONTEST -
The Visitors Bureau’s 2021 Covered Bridge Photo Contest IS OFFICIALLY CLOSED. This year's winner was Margie Hunsinger from Catawissa. Next year's contest will return in March, 2022!
How to Enter:
- Email your photos to email@example.com within the dates above. MUST INCLUDE photographer’s name & name of bridge in the photo's title (Example: RupertBridge_Joe Smith_2021.jpg)
- OR post your photo on Instagram using #CMVBPuzzle2021. MUST INCLUDE: Photographer’s name & Bridge featured. If selected as a finalist, you will be contacted for a high quality version of your Instagram submission.
Rules and Regulations:
- Entry to the contest is FREE.
- All photos must be of bridges located within Columbia or Montour County. For a map/list of the bridges, please click here.
- 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 2021 puzzle and in future marketing efforts for the contest and for the counties.
- All photos must be high-resolution (at least 1500 pixels on shortest side).
- A max of four photos per person will be accepted.
The top overall photo will be selected by the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau to be featured as the 2021 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.
- 2021 Covered Bridge Contest Winner -
Bike the Back Roads & Discover our Covered Bridges
To create a cycling trip specifically with the covered bridges in mind, be sure to check out these great cycling route options!
Thanks to enthusiast Jared Fenstermacher for putting the routes together.