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Scattered throughout the quaint and scenic towns of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, sit 12 historical wooden covered bridges. Visit Bucks County has designed a self-guided tour for tourists and residents.
“When you drive through these covered bridges, it brings you back to a simpler time and brings you feelings of nostalgia,” said Paul Bencivengo, Visit Bucks County’s President and Chief Operations Officer.
Bencivengo said the quaint bridges attract 8 million visitors annually, generating $1 billion in revenue and supporting 27,000 hospitality jobs.
Historical context for the Bucks County bridges: A journey through time
Some of these bridges date back to the 1800s and should be appreciated, not only just for the architecture but their importance in the growth of the country, said Scott Bomboy, the chair of the Bucks County Covered Bridge Society.
Their structure and style are inspired by the famous architect Ithiel Town. Town’s patented wooden truss bridges feature an “uninterrupted series of crisscrossed diagonals that connect the horizontal top and bottom chords to form a series of overlapping triangles.” He used materials that were readily available and resistant to severe weather. His design allowed the bridges to be easily constructed and repaired by local carpenters.
Bucks County has one of the highest concentrations of the lattice type [bridges] in the country, Bomboy said. Bomboy’s organization advocates for repair and maintenance work on the bridges.
“We have to lobby the state to repair, we advocate for the care and well-being of the bridges, we alert government agencies about problems, we’ve raised money to put lights inside of bridges, to fireproof them, and fireproof paint,” he said.
There used to be at least 50 such bridges in the county. Now only a dozen survive.
In 1903, four of 11 covered bridges on the Delaware River were lost on the same day to a flood. However, many were purposefully removed in the 1900s.
In the 1920s, the Department of Highways made a push to modernize interior roadways.
The covered bridges were only about 16 feet wide, so they couldn’t accommodate two cars or heavy trucks, Bomboy said. The department began replacing the bridges with modern metal spans. The only covered bridges that survived were the ones located in remote areas with less traffic.
However, as World War II began, the demolition of covered bridges in Bucks County ceased because of a lack of resources. In the 1950s the county and the state shifted their policy to preservation and began attempting to move the covered bridges or reroute the roads around them.
In 1958, a historical society moved the South Perkasie covered bridge to save it from demolition. That effort made national news and brought scrutiny and criticism to the county and state for their lack of involvement.
“That incident became a landmark moment in the preservation movement statewide,” Bomboy said.
By the 1960s, Bucks County officials began to promote the bridges when they realized their tourism potential.
Today, seven of the 12 bridges are owned by Bucks County and maintained by the General Service department, said James O’Malley from the Bucks County Commissioners Office.
Tips for a self-guided tour of the covered bridges:
- The tour of the covered bridges takes roughly three-and-a-half hours. Along the way, you can experience the many treasures of Bucks County including wineries, rolling pastures, farmhouses, historical landmarks, and main street shopping and restaurants.
- If you are a fan of local breweries, Bencivengo recommends the Bucks County Ale Trail. Visiting five breweries on the trail earns you a free T-shirt.
- Drive with caution. Motorcycles frequent the roads and much of the tour is made up of narrow and winding gravel streets against steep hills. Many of the bridges are one-way. Be prepared to yield to oncoming cars before driving through.
The tour is divided into two loops. The self-guided driving tour takes you through the county and will have you starting and ending at the Washington Crossing Historic Park.
This loop is 58.2 miles and takes about two and a half hours to complete.
The tour begins at the park’s visitor center. There is a large parking lot across the street. You can access walking and biking trails and explore a scenic view of the Delaware River. You can also visit the spot where George Washington crossed the river during the Revolutionary War.
This bridge is about 6 miles from the park and sits over Pidcock Creek. Van Sandt was constructed in 1875 and is rumored to be haunted. It is nicknamed “the crybaby bridge,” and is a stop on the Haunted Bucks County driving tour. According to legend, a young woman killed her child and herself on the bridge and their cries can still be heard at night. With no place to pull over, it is best to drive through the bridge and avoid any ghosts.
13 miles away from Van Sandt is the Loux. It crosses Cabin Run Creek. Built in 1874 and owned by the state of Pennsylvania, it is named after John A. Loux, who was the “longest-tenured justice of the peace in Bucks County.” The one-lane bridge does not have a place to pull over but it takes you through picturesque winding roads and is surrounded by charming landscapes.
Cabin Run Covered Bridge is nestled against Tohickon Creek and is 2 miles away from the Loux. In the 19th century, this area had an abundance of log cabins and stone houses. The bridge is named after them. During the Revolutionary War, the area was said to be utilized by the Doan Boys, a gang of Loyalist brothers.
Assembled in 1871, the bridge is only half a mile from Tohickon Valley Park and is the perfect spot to enjoy the creek and take a break from driving. The park is equipped with picnic benches and portable toilets.
4.3 miles away from Cabin Run is the fourth bridge on the tour. Created in 1872, Frankenfield sits on a busy road and spans Tinicum Creek. At 130 feet, it is one of the longest-covered bridges. The bridge is named after Henry Frankenfield, a contractor who lived in the nearby village of Sundale. According to a history book about Montgomery County, Frankenfield’s “influence and workmanship may be found in many of the finest buildings in Bucks County.”
About 3 miles away is the shortest bridge on the tour. Constructed in the mid-1850s, the 56-feet long Erwinna’s white paint, lattice-type construction, and American flag make it arguably one of the most eye-catching bridges. The bridge is nestled between two homes and sits on the 528-acre property Colonel Arthur Erwin purchased in 1769. The colonel served in the Bucks County militia and aided George Washington by rallying his soldiers to assist in the 1776 Delaware River crossing.
The Uhlerstown Bridge lies hidden amongst tall trees, horse farms, and houses that seem almost stacked on top of the bridge. The oak bridge, 2.5 miles away from Erwinna, was built in 1855. It is the only covered bridge that crosses the Delaware Canal in Bucks County. It was named after Michael Uhler, a local canal boat builder and the first postmaster who founded Uhlerstown. Uhler’s business with the canal system employed around 100 people in 1887. The historic area was also once known as “Mexico” according to a plaque by the bridge.
Uhlerstown Hill Road is a one-way street west of the bridge and is closed from December to April.
15 miles from Uhlerstown is Knecht’s Covered Bridge in Springfield. The wide, open road surrounding the bridge is a welcoming contrast to the thin and winding roads connected to the other bridges. The bridge is surrounded by sleek black fences and a sprawling pasture. It was constructed in 1873. The bridge that connects Durham Creek was also known as “Slifer’s Bridge”. Knechts sits on fertile land lived on by German settlers in the early 1700s. The bridge’s location is said to be the path of the 1737 Walking Purchase.
7.6 miles from Knechts and the last stop on the Eastern Half Loop is the Sheard’s Mill Covered Bridge. This bridge was constructed in 1873 and sits near a mill. John Clymer, the owner of a local mill in East Rockhill Township, utilized the facilities for feed and apple cider up until the 1980s.
This loop is 37.3 miles and takes about an hour and a half to drive through.
6.6 miles from the end of the Eastern Half Loop is the first bridge on the Western Loop. Built in 1874, Mood’s Covered Bridge now sits in the middle of a residential area in Perkasie and is one of the most used covered bridges.An average of 2,000 vehicles cross through this span daily. However, the bridge that you can cross today is not the original. In June 2004, the bridge was set on fire by arsonists and it had to be replaced.
Mood’s is next to an athletics field with parking spots perfect for pulling over and taking selfies and photos.
Only 2 miles from Mood’s lies the remains of the South Perkasie Covered Bridge. Constructed in 1832, this is the third oldest Town Lattice bridge in the country. In 1958, the Perkasie Historical Society relocated the bridge from Pleasant Spring Creek to Lenape Park to save it from demolition. It is now owned and conserved by Perkasie Borough.
Bomboy believes that South Perkasie is the most authentic covered bridge in the state.
“You don’t see a lot of original bridges because the ones on road service are constantly being rehabbed, but it was taken out of service in 1958.”
A 2021 storm damaged the bridge. It has been undergoing renovations since.
This bridge is currently off-limits to commuters and tourists but can be viewed from a distance. Bomboy said it will probably reopen in a year’s time.
Pine Valley is 8.7 miles away and is the second oldest covered bridge in the county. This bridge was built in 1842 and crosses Pine Creek Run. This bridge is adjacent to the popular Covered Bridge Park. Its location makes Pine Valley a favorite among locals.
Drive with caution. Oncoming traffic does not stop at one entrance of the bridge. If you are visiting at night, you may see the bridge lit up.
Local tip: On your way to the next bridge, stop at Tanner Brothers Dairy Farm in Ivyland for their famous chocolate milk and ice cream.
About 15 miles from Pine Valley is the last covered bridge on the tour. It is the only bridge that is not painted and has a rich history. Schofield Ford Covered Bridge was destroyed by arsonists in 1991.
“It was rebuilt by the local carpenters…and took them four years to raise the money to pay for the steel substructure. The state didn’t pay for everything. All the local carpenters took a month off, they scavenged the wood, and they rebuilt the bridge into an exact replica of the one that was burned,” Bomboy said.
Today, the bridge sits in the middle of Tyler State Park and is reachable by trail. Find a parking spot and walk or bike to the bridge to enjoy the creek and surrounding nature.
The Schofield covered bridge is really instagrammable, Bencivengo said. It’s a favorite spot for wedding photographers and ballerinas.
14. End back at Washington Crossing Historic Park
The Bucks County covered bridge driving tour is now complete. You can now adventure through the park or nearby towns such as New Hope for a bite by the river.