Somerset County has 1,081 square miles of natural marvels, including the Allegheny Mountains and Mount Davis, the highest point of elevation in Pennsylvania. The county also has acres of fertile farmland, thick forests and numerous lakes, rivers, streams and creeks.
Man-made marvels such as reservoirs, railroad tunnels and bridges were built here, too, so that county residents and businesses could produce and transport goods, and people, across those rolling hills, rivers and streams.
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One way to experience both the natural and man-made beauty of Somerset County is to take a self-guided tour of the 10 covered bridges still in use around the county.
Built in the mid-to-late 1800s, these covered bridges were designed to support wagons filled with a variety of cargo and/or people, and transport them from one place to another, usually crossing over a river or a stream. Wood was often used to build the bridges because it was the most accessible local material, and the outer siding and roof were added to protect the bridge’s structural components from the weather.
Six of the 10 covered bridges in Somerset County are owned and maintained by the county, said Brad Zearfoss, planning director for the Somerset County Planning Commission. Four bridges are privately owned but are still accessible to the public.
“The covered bridges are an important part of our local transportation history,” Zearfoss said. “All of Somerset County’s bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“In addition, the covered bridges still remain a functional part of our local transportation infrastructure-providing vehicular and non-motorized access for residents and visitors.”
All six of the county-owned covered bridges are open to daily vehicle traffic, although height and weight restrictions are posted at each bridge. The four privately-owned bridges are walk-through only.
Many of these covered bridges are in remote locations as well, so be prepared to travel some bumpy two-lane roads, to share the road with other vehicles or possibly an Amish horse and buggy, and to use some detective reasoning along the way.
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The marvelous scenery and the unique design of these covered bridges make a sightseeing adventure popular among visitors to Somerset County, according to Acacia Svonavec, marketing and communications director for the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce.
A covered bridge tour map and guide produced by the Chamber of Commerce is also available. It provides GPS coordinates, a map and detailed directions to find each of the covered bridges, as well as suggestions on other local places to visit.
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Zearfoss said that Somerset County is committed to making sure that its covered bridges continue to serve the county’s daily transportation needs for years to come.
“The county does regular inspections of all of its 60-plus bridges, including the covered bridges,” he said. “Covered bridges are very durable. The county-owned covered bridges are more than 100 years old.
“The cost to construct a modern bridge to replace a covered bridge, on the other hand, can easily top $ 1 million and take years to permit and construct.”
Here is a look at the 10 covered bridges in Somerset County.
This bridge is located off of Ream Road and state route 653, 3 miles northwest of New Lexington. It is the longest covered bridge in Somerset County, at just over 162 feet and about 13 feet wide. It was built in 1830 and crosses over Laurel Hill Creek. This bridge is privately owned but is accessible to the public to walk through.
This bridge is located on Burkholder Bridge Road, 2 miles north of Garrett on Route 219 North. It is 52 feet long and 12 feet wide. It was built in 1870 and crosses over Buffalo Creek. This county-owned bridge is open to vehicle traffic, with an 8-foot height clearance and 3-ton weight limit posted.
This bridge is located about 4 miles south of Route 30 near Shanksville and along state Route 1007, or Lambertsville Road. It measures 90 feet long and 12 feet wide. The bridge was built in 1881 and crosses over the Stonycreek River. Vehicles can drive across this county-owned bridge, which is posted with a 9-foot, 9-inch clearance and 3-ton weight limit.
This bridge is located on state Route 653, or Scullton Road, about 3 miles west of New Lexington. It is almost directly across the street from Ream Road, where the turn is for the Barronvale Bridge. The King’s Bridge is 127 feet long, about 12 feet wide and crosses over Laurel Hill Creek. A sign on the bridge says it was built in 1802 and then rebuilt in 1906 and in 2008. King’s Bridge is likely the oldest remaining covered bridge in Somerset County. It is privately owned and open to walk-through traffic. There is also a large parking area and a picnic area.
Lower Humbert Bridge
This bridge is located on state Route 3007, or Humbert Road, about one mile north from the intersection with Route 281 near the village of Ursina. This bridge is about 126 feet long, about 12 feet wide and crosses over Laurel Hill Creek. The bridge was built in 1891 and was rehabilitated in 1991. This county-owned bridge is open to vehicle traffic with an 8-foot clearance and 3-ton weight limit posted.
New Baltimore Bridge
This bridge is located off of Route 1013, or Deeter Gap Road, and Route 1015 in the village of New Baltimore. This bridge is about 86 feet long, 12 feet wide and it crosses over the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River. It was built in 1879, was destroyed in a flood in 1996 and then rebuilt and reopened to traffic in 1998. Vehicle height and weight restrictions apply to drive over this county-owned structure. A state bridge replacement project is underway in this area this summer, so visitors should follow the posted detour signs to find this covered bridge.
Pack Saddle Bridge
This bridge is located near the intersection of Pine Valley Road and Route 2019, or Glen Savage Road, not far from the village of Fairhope. It is the shortest covered bridge in Somerset County, measuring just 48 feet long and 14 feet wide. This county-owned bridge crosses over Brush Creek, and its setting is unique for the waterfall that cascades along one side of the bridge. The bridge was built in 1870, rehabilitated in 1950 and was also damaged by floodwaters in 1996. The county had the bridge restored and it was reopened in 1998. Vehicles that are under the 9 feet, 11-inch height restriction and 3-ton weight limit can drive over this bridge.
This is the county’s northernmost covered bridge and it is located along Route 985, or Somerset Pike, about 2 miles north of the village of Thomas Mills. The bridge is 68 feet long and about 13 feet wide. It was built in 1877 and crosses over Bens Creek. This county-owned bridge is on schedule to be rehabilitated this summer, so vehicle traffic might be limited as work progresses. A 7-foot height clearance and 3-ton weight restriction are posted.
This covered bridge is located on North Club Road, near the intersections of Route 30 west, also known as the Lincoln Highway, and Routes 403 and 281 near Stoystown. A sign on the covered bridge says it was built in 1873, then restored in 1965 and 1993 by the Stoystown Lions Club. The bridge is 104 feet long and about 12 feet wide. The bridge is still in its original location, but it is now part of American Legion Park, a community park that also includes a vintage military helicopter and tank, the former Stoystown railroad depot and a one-room schoolhouse. The bridge is privately owned and is open to foot traffic only.
Walter’s Mill Bridge
This covered bridge is located on the grounds of the Somerset Historical Center, 10649 Somerset Pike in Somerset. It is about 60 feet long, 12 feet wide and was built in 1859. In the 1960s, the bridge was moved from its original location over Coxes Creek to a Somerset residence to save it from demolition. The bridge was then relocated to the Somerset Historical Center in the mid-1970s. In 1986, the bridge was restored and it reopened in 1987. This bridge is owned by the Somerset Historical Center and it is open to foot traffic only.
Additional sources: The Covered Bridges of Somerset County Map and Guide, a tourism brochure produced by the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce; Historic Bridges of Somerset County Pennsylvania, a publication written by Scott D. Heberling and produced in 2010 by Heberling Associates, Inc., for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration; Pennsylvania’s Covered Bridges: a complete guide. Authors: Benjamin D. Evans and June R. Evans, 1993, University of Pittsburgh Press.