What defines the bucolic beauty of Lancaster County? Its pristine Amish barns and large farmhouses. Its rolling hills…and its covered bridges. These charming structures developed because putting a protective top over the wooden bridge deck added many years to the bridge’s life. A few are original, but many were rebuilt after Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Because of this, it’s possible still to cross the bridges in your car or your buggy, depending on your mode of transportation.
This past spring, my husband and I made a tour of some of the prettiest covered bridges in Lancaster County. Each one is unique and is perfectly set in its location.
Our first stop was Hunsecker’s Mill Bridge which crosses the Conestoga River. Unlike most of the other bridges in the county, it is not painted red. Its vertical boards are a simple brown. Also, unlike other bridges we visited, it has a double arch system to hold up the bridge as it spans the river. These arches, the upper one over ten feet tall at the peak, are on both sides of the bridge and support both the roof and the deck.
Pinetown Covered Bridge has crossed the Conestoga River since 1868 on Bridge Road. Like Hunsecker’s Mill Bridge, it originally sat next to a mill. The mill is gone now except for a few ruined walls. It spans 135 feet and is painted a rusty red.
Set beside an Amish farm on Log Cabin Road is Zook’s Mill Bridge. This bridge crosses Cocalico Creek. Although it was filled with nearly seven feet of water during Hurricane Agnes, it survived the storm. A sign inside the bridge shows how high the water got. The red bridge has a shorter span than the others at only 89 feet.
Keller’s Mill Bridge is unique because it is the only covered bridge in the county to be painted white. Also it has moved. In 2006 it was dismantled and moved from one location on Cocalico Creek to another. It reopened in 2010. In its original location, a standard concrete bridge was built. It is a low bridge with openings to a height of only 9½ feet.
Erb’s Mill Bridge is also known as Hammer 1 Bridge. It crosses Hammer Creek and is set in a charming location with a fishing hole and open fields.
If you have a chance to visit a covered bridge, take the time to stand near it and listen to vehicles going through it. Cars make a muted thud-thud-thud as their tires roll over the seams in boards that run perpendicular to the road. Buggies with their metal wheels and their horses shod in iron horseshoes are much, much louder. They are a reminder of times when we weren’t enclosed in a vehicle, shut off from the outside world.
Jo Ann Brown has been creating characters and stories for as long as she can remember. She’s penned over 100 titles as a best-selling and award-winning author. She currently writes for Harlequin Love Inspired.
The first book in her Amish Hearts series, Amish Homecoming, will be available from Love Inspired on December 15, 2015.
She has always lived on the east coast, but now resides in Nevada with her husband and a very chubby cat.