The 19th-century necessity of traversing rivers as well as protecting bridge trusses and decking from the elements with a wooden covering is today one of the most sought-after relics of history.
Built mainly from wood due to its abundance, the covering served to make Elder Bridge the bridge stronger and extend its life upwards of 100 years. And for that reason, many remain—with a little restoration from communities who want to retain this icon of history—as an example of expert craftmanship centuries ago.
At one time, more than 10,000 covered bridges existed in the United States; according to one source, only 700 remain with the most being found in Pennsylvania.
Stories of the covered bridge are as enduring as the structure itself. To provide shelter for travelers. To court your sweetheart and give her a kiss, breathing life into the nickname Kissing Bridge. To soothe the horse as he traveled across. For every bridge, there’s a story.
The most popular design is the Town Lattice, which uses closely spaced diagonal elements to form an open lattice. Named after 1820 architect Ithiel Town, this design crafted a substantial bridge that was an easier production for workers. Its cost-efficient design using planks enabled bridges to be built by lower-skilled laborers rather than using heavy timbers and expensive carpenters. It was Washington King who became the most noted builder of this design.
In Georgia, more than 250 covered bridges were constructed; today, approximately 16 remain. As historical landmarks, these bridges tell stories of communities and the people who lived there. Many are no longer accessible to vehicle traffic, but they invite visitors to take a walk under the tresses and through history.
Visit these North Georgia beauties this fall season for a picture-perfect sojourn to the past.
Cromer’s Mill Covered Bridge
Ga. Highway 106 E, Carnesville
Built in 1907 near Royston, Cromer’s Mill Covered Bridge, which crosses Nails Creek, is no longer accessible to traffic. It is 132 feet long and crafted in the Town Lattice design, a popular choice of builders. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Concord Covered Bridge
Concord Road SW, Smyrna
The Concord was built in 1872 over Nickajack Creek. It was restructured to accommodate more modern times in the 1950s. Erected in a Queen-Rod design, this one-lane bridge is still in use. Locals have long considered the bridge haunted, with a tale that includes a parked car, a Snickers bar and ghosts of drowned children. It is located near the Heritage Park Trail and the Silver Comet Trail.
Elder Mill Covered Bridge
Elder Mill Road, Watkinsville
Located outside of Watkinsville, the 100-foot Elder Mill Covered Bridge is one of the few functioning bridges remaining in Georgia and is located on the Georgia Antebellum Trail. Moved here by wagon from its original location over Calls Creek, it is decorated by a neighbor in colored lights during the Christmas season and is the perfect location for a holiday card photo.
Below runs the Rose Creek. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s a small parking area on one side of the bridge.
Euharlee Covered Bridge
33 Covered Bridge Road, Euharlee
Built by the same artisan as Watson Mill, the Euharlee bridge was built in 1886. Its 138-foot structure runs across the Euharlee Creek near Cartersville. Like many, it is no longer open to vehicles. However, the Euharlee History Museum located adjacent to the bridge will share the area’s history including artifacts dating back to when Native Americans lived here. The museum is closed Monday and Tuesday; the museum offers free tours Wednesday through Sunday.
Haralson Mill Covered Wooden Bridge (Rockdale County Covered Bridge)
4400 Haralson Mill Road, Conyers
It was the first covered bridge to be built in Georgia since the 1800s. To preserve the historic nature of the area, in 1997, the community erected a bridge that would retain the atmosphere of the Haralson Mill Historic District, comprised of a general store, mill house, mill site and a blacksmith shop. Although not historic, its two-lane 150-foot structure is impressive and its reach covers Mill Rock Creek.
3 miles southeast of Smithonia on SR S2164, Lexington
Crossing Big Clouds Creek in Oglethorpe County, this bridge spans 168 feet and was built in 1905 to replace an earlier structure. The Town Lattice design bridge was built by convict labor with South Georgia timber transported to the area by the Smith and Dunlap Railroad. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It is located in a very rural area, about three miles southeast of Smithonia and difficult to find. It is not open to traffic.
Hurricane Shoals Covered Bridge
416 Hurricane Shoals Road, Maysville
The people of Jackson County ordered a new bridge to be built across Hurricane Shoals in 1869. By 1870, it was in use, located three miles south of Maysville. At 127 feet with the Town Lattice design, it quickly became the talk of the town. In 1972, the bridge burned. In 1994, the Tumbling Waters Society applied for a federal grant to reconstruct the bridge; initially denied, the grant was later awarded and the bridge was built in 2002.
Lula Covered Bridge (Blind Suzie Covered Bridge)
Antioch Church Road off Ga. Highway 51, Lula
It’s Georgia’s smallest covered bridge—34 feet—but it’s no less important. It’s a Howe-truss-covered bridge built in 1915 and stands on its original slab. Crossing Grove Creek, it is located on private property and not open to visitors but a peep is possible. Who was Blind Susie? Legend has it that she was a unique woman who sat on her porch selling moonshine which she hid under her skirt.
Poole’s Mill Covered Bridge
7725 Poole’s Mill Road, Cumming
It was built for a grist mill owned by Cherokee Chief George Welch in 1820 and later named for a local. The 100-foot original bridge washed away in 1899, but in the 1990s, it was restored by the community and has a crisscross design of Town Lattice and is now a dedicated county park. It spans Settendown Creek.
Stone Mountain Covered Bridge (Washington W. King Bridge)
1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain
Within Stone Mountain Park, its covered pine and cedar bridge was moved from Athens in 1891 to its present location. It featured the craftmanship of Washington King. It was disassembled and reassembled on top of cement and granite piers and connects the park to Stone Mountain Lake.
Stovall Mill Covered Bridge
Ga. Hwy. 255, Sautee-Nacoochee
Although not the original bridge, this 33-foot one was constructed in 1895 when the original washed away. Crossing Chickamauga Creek, many tell haunted tales of nighttime sounds of crying babies and horse-drawn carriages. It was featured in Susan Hayworth’s film, “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain.”
Watson Mill Bridge
650 Watson Mill Road, Comer
The only covered bridge to be located within a state park, Watson Mill is the longest bridge in the state and is located near Athens. Reaching 229 feet across the South Fork River, it was built in 1885 by Washington King. The Town Lattice truss is considered a work of art held together by wooden pins. The park is a popular place for camping, hiking and horseback riding.