EXPLORE: Vermont Covered Bridges

Edited 2021 with thanks to: Vermont Covered Bridges

This page was written before Hurricane Irene destroyed or damaged so many covered bridges in Vermont. Read it as a tribute to what has been lost and to remind yourself of the cost of maintaining our heritage.

The Glory of a Vermont Fall Never Fails to Charm
Autumn Leaves Surrounding Cilley Covered Bridge, Vermont

Autumn Leaves Surrounding Cilley Covered Bridge
A Step into History

Per square mile, there are more Covered Bridges in Vermont than in any other state in the U.S. Residents in Vermont cherish their covered bridges, not minding the way a driver has to slow down and often wait for an oncoming car to travel through the bridge first.

When I lived in Vermont, I sometimes went out of my way to cross a covered bridge on my way to and from work. I even remember one occasion when the covered bridge was closed for repairs and the wide detour I had to take made me late! My employer was not impressed with my excuse, but I often chose to go that way again, though usually on my way home!

In Vermont, as elsewhere, covered bridges were built in the days when horse and buggy was the main form of transportation. People had a different sense of time and movement than we do today. Sometimes it’s fun to slow down our own lives and think about what it would have been like to live when the roads were full of horses and people moving on foot. Visiting covered bridges in Vermont or other places helps us do just that.

Why So Many Covered Bridges in Vermont? And Why Are They Covered in the First Place? 

Covered bridges were built with a roof for one very good reason — weather! Because in the 1800’s bridges were built mostly with wood, and because Vermont experiences challenging weather during the long cold winter, bridges were built with a roof to keep the snow off the crossing surface.

This minimized problems with horses and drivers sliding off into the river, but the main reason they were covered was to protect the wooden structure itself. If a bridge had to withstand heavy packs of snow each year, not only would it become impassible for long stretches, but the weight of the snow and the tendency of the wood to rot would mean that the bridge would have to be replaced often, costing a lot of moola.

Builders were not just trying to build an attractive structure. They were using their ingenuity to solve the problems of travel in their day.

The Longest Covered Bridge in the United States – Covered Bridge Between Windsor, VT, and Cornish, NH

The longest covered bridge in the U.S. crosses the Connecticut River between Windsor, VT, and Cornish, NH. This covered bridge, which stretches 449 feet, is also the longest two-span covered bridge in the world. It was built in 1866 for the whopping fee of $9000. Built as a toll bridge, the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge was bought by the State of New Hampshire in 1936 and was made toll-free in 1943.

There is still a sign that hangs over the bridge that says, “Walk Your Horses or Pay Two Dollars Fine.” That sign itself conjures to mind some of the ruckus that must have erupted in the days when horses met each other inside the dark covered bridge, along with pedestrians and maybe even a bicycle or two.

How Much Did It Cost to Cross the River Through a Covered Bridge?

In the 1800’s, people often had to pay a toll to cross a covered bridge. Tolls were used to defray the costs of building and maintaining the covered bridges.

This is a list of what you would expect to pay to cross over the river by covered bridge:

  • A man on foot                                                1 cent
  • A man on horseback                                     4 cents
  • A one-horse carriage                                    10 cents
  • A carriage drawn by more than 1 horse       20 cents
  • Cattle                                                               1 cent, driver free
  • Sheep or swine                                            1/2 cent, driver free

Information credit from the Vermont Life Magazine webpage.

Covered Bridge, Burlington, Vermont

Covered Bridge, Burlington, Vermont
Covered Bridge, Vermont

Covered Bridge, Vermont
Covered Bridge, Stowe, Vermont

Covered Bridge, Stowe, Vermont
In 2011, Hurricane Irene Caused Flooding in Vermont. Three Bridges Collapsed While Others Were Damaged

Video Clip of a Covered Bridge Collapsing During the Flood in Vermont
The video clip is short, but Fox News interviews the woman who filmed the collapse, too.

Lists of Vermont Covered Bridges and Where to Find Them

Virtual Vermont Covered Bridges

Photographs and historical information about Vermont covered bridges.

Source: Vermont Covered Bridges

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