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Southern Vermont Covered Bridges

Covered bridges are one of southern Vermont’s primary tourist attractions, and there is no shortage of original, authentic, and historic examples. In a short drive on back roads between Brattleboro and White River Junction, and west to Arlington, there are plenty of original covered bridges, some of them among the most historically important and picturesque in the United States. The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, one of the longest wooden bridges in the country, is here. So is Taftsville Covered Bridge, constructed in 1836, whose bright red paint job makes it one of the most photographable bridges you will see. Dummerston, from 1872, is also photogenic and located close to Brattleboro. These are just the highlights, and there are dozens more original covered bridges in the region.

In addition to all of the original covered bridges, there are also a handful of non-original covered bridges mixed in, with varying degrees of success. As discussed in Chapter 2 of my book, Bridgespotting: A Guide to Bridges that Connect People, Places, and Times, one of the unfortunate side-effects of popularity is imitation, for the sole purpose of attracting additional tourists. In many areas where there are clusters of covered bridges, including southern Vermont, the original covered bridges are mixed in with several non-original bridges, including bridges that are new, fake, reconstructed, and/or relocated.

One of the major attractions of covered bridges is their place within the local scenery, which is to be enjoyed from the side of the bridge, and not from walking across it. For instance, the setting for Cornish-Windsor is gorgeous, with the White and Green Mountains rising on both sides of the flat, quiet river. Like most outdoor destinations in New England, the best time to visit is fall, when the leaves are turning.

In most of covered bridge clusters that are amenable to a driving tour, your primary challenge is going to be to avoid spending half of the day looking at uninteresting bridges. For every picturesque covered bridge that is painted bright red, situated on the edge of a quaint village green, and accoutered with a parking lot and historical plaques, there is a weathered, gray, barn-looking thing sitting in the middle of the woods with no tourism-friendly features at all. However, even these less interesting bridges attract covered bridge tourists because they are old, and are historically important in terms of their construction technique or role in local history.

Vermont is a small state, but it has about 100 covered bridges, and there are dozens more a short drive away in New Hampshire and Connecticut. This makes the region an excellent place for covered bridge touring, especially if you are willing to research locations in advance, high grade your targets, and only visit a selection of the available options. In my travels, I have, unfortunately, only visited the bridges in the southern part of Vermont. I hope to add those in the northern part soon.

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