The covered bridge is a symbol of Pennsylvania's quaint past and often features in tourist brochures1. At their peak in the 19th Century there were more than 1,500 covered bridges in this state, however, the first ones are thought to have been constructed in Europe in the Middle Ages.
Numerous streams in eastern USA were most easily bridged using the abundant timber from nearby forests. But building trusses and supports entirely of wood would expose them to weather damage. To solve this problem, the simple solution of adding a roof, made covered bridges tremendously popular.
It is estimated that there are still more than 200 such bridges in Pennsylvania. The majority lie in the south-eastern and south-central part of the state. It's a testament to the workmanship of their creators that most bridges still in existence today are able to support cars2.
Part of their charm is that they're located in relatively built-up suburban areas like Bucks County, just north of Philadelphia, as opposed to a more traditional rural setting like those in Perry County. Furthermore, five of the bridges are highlighted in a three-hour driving tour for which maps can be obtained by contacting the Bucks County Conference and Visitors Bureau.
The Covered Bridges
Cabin Run Bridge - This bridge was built in 1871 and spans the Cabin Run Creek. At 82 feet in length, it's painted red with a white portal. It is located just downstream from Loux Bridge.
Erwinna Bridge - The shortest covered bridge in the county, this 56-footer crosses the Lodi Creek in Tinicum Township. It's also painted in the traditional red with a white portal. The National Historic Register lists its construction date as 1871, but county records indicate that it may have been built as early as 1832.
Frankenfield Bridge - Built two miles upstream from where the Tinicum Creek flows into the Delaware River, this is one of the longest covered bridges in the county at 130 feet. It was built in 1872 and is painted red. There is a small nameplate on the bridge listing its date of construction, its length and height.
Knecht's Bridge - Also known as Slifer's Bridge, this was built of hemlock in 1873. This 110-foot span crosses Durham Creek in Springfield Township. It's painted in the traditional red with white entry portals.
The Loux Bridge - Located in Plumstead Township, this 60-foot covered bridge crosses Cabin Run Creek upstream from Cabin Run Bridge. It was built in 1874. It is unique among the bridges in the county for being painted white.
Mood's Bridge - Built in 1874, this 120-foot span crosses the Perkiomen Creek in East Rockhill Township. This bridge is currently closed after being severely damaged by arson in the summer of 2004. At the time of writing, the bridge's future looks bleak.
Pine Valley Bridge - Crossing Pine Run Creek and also known as Iron Hill Bridge, this 81-foot span was built in 1842 from hemlock and pine. Painted in the traditional red with white entry portals, this bridge is also heavily used and caution should be taken if venturing across it on foot or taking photos.
Schofield Ford Bridge - Originally built in 1873, this bridge burned down in 1991 and was rebuilt in 1997. This town truss-style bridge is also known as Twining Ford Bridge and crosses Neshaminy Creek in Tyler State Park. The longest in Bucks County, it is 170 feet across and is closed to traffic.
Sheard's Mill Bridge - This 130-foot bridge spans the Tohickon Creek and was built in 1873. It is also sometimes referred to as Thatcher Bridge. The remains of an old mill - owned at one time by the Sheard family - are just to the south of the bridge, which is painted in the traditional red with a white entry.
South Perkasie Bridge - Built in 1832, this 93-foot bridge no longer crosses the Pleasant Spring Creek. In 1958 it was moved from its original site to Lenape Park in the Borough of Perkasie and is closed to traffic. The entire bridge is painted red and bears a famous sign which reads - $5 Fine for Any Person Riding or Driving Over This Bridge Faster Than a Walk or Smoking Segars3 On.
Uhlerstown Bridge - Built in 1832, this 101-foot bridge crosses the Delaware Canal in Tinicum Township. Made of oak, it has windows on both sides. It's also painted in the traditional red with white entry portals.
Van Sant Bridge - Located in Washington Crossing Historic Park, this 86-foot span crosses Pidcock Creek. It is also known as Beaver Dam Bridge and was built in 1875. It too is painted in the traditional red with white entry portals.
Covered bridges are also referred to locally as 'Kissing Bridges' and Pennsylvania Dutch tradition holds that you should kiss your sweetheart while passing through a covered bridge for 'good luck'.