Of the approximately 14,000 covered bridges that once existed in the U.S., Pennsylvania claims almost 200 of the remaining 550. The 19 bridges in Columbia County and the four on the border between Columbia and Northumberland Counties represent the third largest concentration in the state.
The annual Covered Bridge Festival at Knoebel’s Grove Amusement Park in Elysburg celebrates these bridges, as well as northeastern Pennsylvania’s foliage season. This year’s event is Thursday, October 5 through Sunday, October 8, 2017. You’ll find over 380 artists and artisans displaying primitives, paintings, prints, photography, pottery, and more. You’ll find décor for every holiday season, plus 38 food vendors, free entertainment, and even free parking. The Festival may only last four days, but we think the bridges deserve celebrating the other 361 days of the year as well! Any day in the fall, a scenic drive to see some of these historic bridges also highlights our beautiful foliage season. Experts predict the 2017 fall colors will be especially brilliant, so it’s a great time to explore the Columbia County countryside. If you are attending the Festival, you can see 11 of the covered bridges between the area near Knoebel’s and Bloomsburg.
Your best guide is Covered Bridges of Columbia and Montour Counties Pennsylvania, an 11 page downloadable brochure with photos and information about each of the 25 bridges in the two counties, plus two suggested tour routes, detailed directions, and maps. Other interesting sources of information are The Pennsylvania Covered Bridges website, with information about each bridge as well as an interactive map to help you plan your route. Columbiapa.org illustrates each bridge and offers helpful statistics and GPS coordinates.
The design of the trusses used for a covered bridge determined the maximum length of its span and the complexity of its construction. Multi-span bridges (like building multiple bridges end to end), have supports in the water to span across wider streams and rivers, allowing some truss designs to be used over longer reaches. The Pennsylvania Covered Bridges website illustrates a dozen different trusses, three of which you will see when you visit the 11 covered bridges to the south of Bloomsburg: the simplest, oldest and most common design, the Kingpost/Multi Kingpost, the Burr Arch, and the Queen Truss. Since the Kingpost Truss limited spans to no more than 40 feet, Multi Kingpost or a different truss was required for longer spans. The Queen Truss, although still simple in design, extended the possible span to 100 feet. The Burr Arch Truss, patented in 1804, allowed even longer spans. Of the remaining covered bridges in Pennsylvania, over 60% have Burr Arch Trusses.
Five of the bridges are near Knoebel’s Grove Amusement Park and the Covered Bridge Festival. Four span the South Branch of Roaring Creek, the boundary between Columbia and Northumberland Counties. Two bridges are located within the Amusement Park: the Lawrence L. Knoebel Bridge, a Kingpost, was built in 1881 and originally located at Benton, PA, and the Knoebel’s Grove Bridge, a new Queen Truss (1975), replacing one that had been sited just upstream. Nearest to the Park, the Johnson Bridge spans a tributary of the same creek, and offers a very photogenic setting for camera buffs. Farthest from the Inn are the Krickbaum Bridge and the Richards or Reichard Bridge.
Closer to Catawissa, you’ll find two Burr Arch bridges, the Parr’s Mill Bridge and the Davis Bridge, as well as the photogenic Queen Truss Esther Furnace Bridge. All three bridges span the North Branch of Roaring Creek, as does the Snyder Bridge, farther to the southeast. The Holllingshead Bridge, very near Catawissa, is a Burr Arch built in 1851 and restored in 1999. As you approach Bloomsburg, you will find the Rupert Bridge. This bridge, constructed in 1847 and recently repaired, also uses the Burr Arch Truss and spans 185 feet over Fishing Creek.
No matter how many covered bridges you cross during your stay in Northeastern Pennsylvania, all of us at the Inn, Farmhouse, and Brewing Co. at Turkey Hill will be waiting to welcome you to our historic property after your travels!
Images courtesy of Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau