Lancaster County has long held a special appeal for visitors and locals alike. Whether it is exploring the popular outlet malls for shopping bargains or seeking out Amish farms to learn more about their distinctively unique culture, Lancaster County offers a wide array of activities and learning opportunities.
Nestled among the scenic countryside and rolling hills of this idyllic Amish farmland, is another treasure of Lancaster County…the covered bridges. Those seeking a first-hand view of traditional covered bridges have come to the right place.
Home to more than 200 covered bridges, Pennsylvania has more than any other state. In total, 27 covered bridges can be found in Lancaster County, the most of any county in Pennsylvania.
Year after year, why do these covered bridges remain so appealing? Visitors enjoy the association of Lancaster’s picturesque countryside with the Amish way of life. Watching a horse drawn buggy crossing a historic covered bridge in an idyllic setting is part of that and continues to bring people to Lancaster County for this unique Amish experience.
Another reason covered bridges are so popular is due to their scarcity around the rest of country. Many out of state visitors travel to Lancaster, hoping to catch a glimpse of history. Covered bridge enthusiasts and hobbyists also come to see them.
“Many visitors will define their travel routes around the county to visit the bridges that are out there,” said Scott Standish, the Director of the Long Range and Heritage Planning Division of the Lancaster County Planning Commission.
Dating back to the early 1800s, Lancaster County covered bridges continued to serve a purpose in conjunction with their charming look. While they share the same general construction methods, covered bridges often have features that reflect the regions or communities where they are located. The covered bridges found in Lancaster for example, usually have red sides with all-white portals.
One reason for the similarity in appearance is because 12 of the existing covered bridges in Lancaster County were built by the same man, Elias McMellen. Along with being a prolific bridge builder, McMellen served in the military as a captain in the Union Army. Another bridge builder, James Carpenter, is credited with constructing six additional existing covered bridges.
The official number of covered bridges in Lancaster is 27, yet some estimations place the number as high as 29, leaving room for visitors to find them. All but three bridges are currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Covered bridges remain one of the most photographed subjects in the entire United States, so be sure to bring your camera and capture a special picture all your own.
Discover Lancaster, the county’s visitors’ bureau, suggests five unique driving tours throughout the Lancaster region, which includes several covered bridges. Tour lists, photographs and historical information on all 27 covered bridges of Lancaster County can be found at www.DiscoverLancaster.com.