Pennsylvania's third largest concentration of covered bridges can be found in Columbia County. Nineteen bridges are within the county, and four span the border between Columbia and Northumberland Counties.
We spent a day tracking down covered bridges near Benton. The first one we found was Stillwater Bridge on Raven's Creek Rd. on Big Fishing Creek. Built in 1849 by James McHenry for $1,124.
The Twin Bridges (East and West Paden) are the only twin covered bridges in the United States. Built in 1884 for $720 by W.C. Pennington and named for John Paden, who ran a sawmill nearby.
Above is Josiah Hess Bridge built in 1875 on Huntington Creek.
Jud Christian Bridge is still operational and was in the process of yearly maintenance by Columbia County. We were actually able to drive through the bridge and continue on our way.
Sam Eckman Bridge, also still in use, located on Little Fishing Creek was built in 1876 for $498.
Why Were Bridges Covered?
Many reasons are suggested for covering bridges. One generally accepted reason is protection from weather and wood rot in order to make sure the bridges lasted longer. Other explanations include:
The covered bridges resembled barns so animals would be calm when passing through them.
Covers kept snow off the bridge and made for less maintenance in the winter months.
To cover up unsightly bridge trusses.
To provide shelter for travelers during storms.
From an engineer’s viewpoint, adding a roof to a bridge added stability and strengthened the entire structure. A more romantic utilization of covered bridges was as a location for courting couples to meet. Covered bridges are also known as “kissing bridges” for that very reason!