Simple, Yet Wonderful
“Creak, creak, creak!” protest the turning wooden wheels of an Amish family’s buggy as they follow the hypnotic “clip-clop, clip-clop” sound of the family’s horse up ahead. The morning mist is beginning to surrender to a rising sun off in the distance. Though the Lancaster Valley has jet to spring to life for those living in the English world, the Amish are already heading to the market on what will turn out to be a typical Saturday, hours full of hard work.
The wonderful sounds of yesteryear that mark the present-day Amish life of Lancaster County, Pa., are just some of the incredible scenes you’ll see while taking a driving tour of the wooden covered bridges of Lancaster County.
If you have a little more than an hour of free time to spare, take this tour of five centuries-old wooden bridges that remain open to traffic today. They serve a link to the past when automobiles were just a vision and man’s quest to fly was still a dream.
Begin on Route 30, the old King’s Highway that connected Pennsylvania’s major cities during the years following the Revolutionary War.
Willow Hill Bridge
First up is the Willow Hill Bridge, located about 30 feet off of Route 30 between Willowdale Drive and Witmer Road and just about a half-mile west of the intersection with Route 896. Willow Hill Bridge is actually a combination of two 19-century wooden bridges that were disassembled and reformed to create Willow Hill Bridge as a tourist attraction. Either way, the bridge sits underneath trees that are full of color in the fall and its easy to get to, a treasure in the heart of the Lancaster tourist area.
Hunsecker’s Mill Bridge
At 180 feet long, Hunsecker’s Mill Bridge is one of the longest covered bridges still in existence in Pennsylvania and one of its most picturesque. The structure lies on an old farm road and carries traffic over Conestoga Creek. Hunsecker’s Mill Bridge was originally built in 1843 and was reconstructed in 1973. You’ll find a grassy bank, a parking lot and a turnaround nearby so you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to photograph the bridge and the surrounding area. Though fall is a choice time to photograph this covered bridge, it’s equally as amazing in the winter when white snow drapes the landscape along the rippling waters of the Conestoga Creek.
To get there, head north on Witmer Road and make a right on Route 340. You’ll turn left on Mount Sidney Road and take it a good distance. Mount Sidney turns into Hartman Station Road. Turn left on Creek Hill Road and make an immediate right to remain on Hartman Station. Follow this across Route 23 and then you’ll find Hunsecker Road on your left. Take it and you will come to the bridge.
This bridge is a lot easier to find, an more than enjoyable to look at. Continue on Hunsecker Road and turn right on Butler Road. Continue on this road. When it begins to shadow nearby Route 222, start looking for Bridge Road. Turn right onto Bridge Road. Pinetown Bridge is about one-tenth of a mile down the road.
This 133-foot-long gem was built in 1833 and has been called by Nolte’s Point Mill Bridge, Big Conestoga 6, and Bushong’s Mill Bridge in the past.
Zook’s Mill Bridge
To get to Zook’s Mill Bridge, the next bridge on our tour, go backward to the intersection of Bridge Road and Butler Road. Turn right as the road becomes Creek Road and travel until you get to Route 272 and turn right. Then take a left-hand turn on Rose Hill Road and turn left onto Log Cabin Road where you’ll see the bridge a short distance away.
At 89-feet, Zook’s Mill Bridge isn’t one of the state’s longest, but it is one of Pennsylvania’s most durable covered bridges. Locals say the bridge was so soundly constructed in 1849 that it needed no repairs until rains from Hurricane Agnes flooded the area in 1972. That’s when the usually-mild Cocalico Creek filled will so much water that if it nearly submerged the bridge. There is a plaque that marks the high water line at 6.5 feet at the bridge.
Landis Mill Bridge
Head back on Rose Hill Road and turn right to go west on Route 272. Then make a right on Rt. 722 and continue on this driving on this route until you come to the village of East Petersburg. Turn left to go south on Route 741. Continue past Route 283 and look for Swarr Run Road on your left-hand side. Turn left and the Landis Mill Bridge lies waiting about a half-mile down the road.
Landis Mill Bridge was built in 1873 and traverses a tree-lined Little Conestoga Creek. It’s only 59 feet long, making it one of the smaller of Pennsylvania’s covered bridges, but it’s nestled in a cozy little bend in the river in a way that makes it worth the journey to look at and photograph. There is a pull-off for parking just beyond the bridge.
To get back to Lancaster, retrace your drive back to Route 741 and head south. Head east on Route 283 until it intersects with Route 30 just north of Lancaster.
Pennsylvania’s Covered Bridges