Photographing Covered Bridges

One of my fascinations is photographing covered bridges. Often considered to be relics of a bygone era, they evoke a spirit of nostalgia. Though many have been replaced by steel and, more likely, concrete structures, many are still standing, more than a few in daily use.

Chiselville Bridge, a 117-foot town lattice type bridge, near Sunderland, Vermont

Though they can be found throughout the U.S., they seem to abound in the northeastern states, where many can be found lurking on rural roads. I’ve hunted them in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and other states in my quest to document these charming structures.

State Road Bridge, a town truss type. It is 157′ long and was built in 1983. It crosses Conneaut Creek in Ashtabula County, Ohio

I’ve had some fine and memorable days hunting these obscure and frequently well-hidden treasures. On one especially memorable day, my mother and I drove all over Ashtabula County, Ohio, which has one of the highest concentrations of these wooden structures of any county in America. She navigated as I traversed the countryside in search of often poorly marked locations. We delighted as much at our joy for this shared adventure as on finding and photographing our objectives on a fine, sunny day.

Henry Bridge, a 121-foot town lattice type bridge, near Bennington, Vermont

I’m hardly the only photographer with this passion. Numerous guidebooks to covered bridges are available and significant data and photos are easily found on the web.

Brown Bridge, a 100-foot town lattice type bridge, near Shrewsbury, Vermont

Lest I leave the wrong impression, these bridges, despite their horse and buggy history, are still efficient for their purposes in rural areas they serve. They are relatively inexpensive to build and maintain for use in low-volume areas. Some locales—Ashtabula County, Ohio, in particular—are using them as an important part of their transportation strategy and are even building new bridges to complement their inventory of historic bridges.

Meems Bottom Bridge, a 204-foot single-span Burr arch truss crossing the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Shenandoah County, Virginia

Still, covered bridges are at significant risk. Many have been lost in floods or to vandal-set fires. Not all are repaired when this happens and so, once lost, they are wiped away from all but memory and the photos they’ve left behind. Adding to this visual record is one reason I’m motivated to capture images of them. But most of all, I simply enjoy seeing them and, I confess, reliving in my mind a time of long ago.

Published by Norman Reid

I worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 27 years in the field of rural community and economic development. I retired a few years ago and have been devoting my time to photography and writing. I've been a semi-pro photographer for more than 25 years and sell my work on the Web. I live in rural Virginia not far from the Shenandoah Valley.

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