There are more than 200 historic covered bridges in PA (209 to be exact, but who’s counting?). I’ve made it my goal to visit all of these beautiful and historic structures during my travels around Pennsylvania. Currently, I’ve visited nearly all of them and only have a small handful left to visit in the state.
Not only are Pennsylvania’s covered bridges beautiful and historic structures, but the quest to see them will take you along some of the most beautiful backroads in all of the state. Many of these are roads that you would never find yourself on unless you were hunting down covered bridges.
All told, 34 of Pennsylvania 67 counties are home to at least one historic covered bridge. That makes visiting them all a quest to uncover nearly every corner of this great state.
Below, I’ve organized the covered bridges of PA in a variety of ways. Whether you want to see a map of the covered bridges closest to you or you want to discover the top bridges around the state, scroll down to find out more about these great bridges.
History of Covered Bridges in PA
At one point in time, it is estimated that Pennsylvania was home to more than 1,500 covered bridges. However, advances in technology, types of vehicles, and the amount of traffic has reduced this number to just over 200.
The first covered bridge in the United States was built over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia in 1805 and was known as the Permanent Bridge. This bridge, located along present-day Market Street (next to 30th Street Station) was destroyed by fire in 1875.
Fire (particularly arson) is one of the major causes of covered bridge loss. In recent years, several bridges have been destroyed by arson, including Dellville Covered Bridge in Perry County.
The longest covered bridge ever built was constructed in Pennsylvania between Lancaster County (Columbia) and York County (Wrightsville). This bridge was over a mile in length and was completed in 1814. Sadly, it was destroyed by flood waters in 1832, but it was replaced by another covered bridge 40 feet shorter in 1834. This bridge was burned in 1863 to prevent Confederate soldiers from crossing the Susquehanna.
Today, the longest covered bridge in Pennsylvania can be found in Juniata County. The Academia Pomeroy Covered Bridge is 278 feet in length.
One of the most commonly asked questions about covered bridges is why were they covered in the first place? While there are many theories, the primary reason was that covering the wooden trusses extended the life of the bridge from roughly 20 years to 100 years.
Pennsylvania’s covered bridges are built primarily using a Burr arch truss. This truss style was designed by Theodore Burr in 1804 and is the style used in more than half of the remaining covered bridges in Pennsylvania.
One fun activity is to try and figure out which truss style each of the covered bridges you visit uses. There are several other truss styles that can be found in PA: queen post truss (the second-most common), king post truss, Smith truss, Howe truss, and Town truss.