Kentucky's Covered Bridges

There seems to be no record of all the covered bridges built in Kentucky. Most of the earlier ones were built by individuals or private companies. Some of the Historic Markers say there were more than 400 covered bridges in Kentucky at one time. While covered bridges were built in all parts of the state, they were concentrated in the central and northern part areas. Kentucky's "Timbered Tunnels" Are Rare and Scenic Connections to the Past. Covered bridges are fascinations of engineering and architecture, weathered reminders of days gone by, star attractions in scenic snapshots. Nestled along back roads like hidden jewels, they are the perfect excuse for a leisurely drive in the country. And most are within an easy drive of Lexington. Five of Kentucky’s covered bridges are still open to traffic; you can walk through the others. As you rumble across in your car, or pass your hand across the heavy wooden pegs and timbers rough-hewn to the eye, but worn smooth by the years you’ll experience the living sensations of another era. These charming passages through time combine with other Bluegrass- area attractions to create memorable day excursions from Lexington.

Wooden bridges are built with a roof and walls to protect the main structure from rain, snow, sun and wind. Snow and rain will soak in and cause the timber to rot. Sun and wind will dry the surface of the beams and cause them to become fragile and useless. Bridges were also built covered to facilitate the passage of horse-drawn vehicles without causing the animal to be spooked by fast moving waters below and also became a refuge to travelers caught in downpours and storms. Stone bridges have always been the most popular way to cross rivers and streams but, in many locations, the availability of timber presented a cheaper alternative. The amount of manpower and material needed to erect a masonry span was always overshadowed by its longevity. The wooden span could be made and replaced much faster. During the Civil War, many of Kentucky's covered bridges were burned by both Union and Confederate troops. More were lost in the 1900s, victims to modern replacement, arson, and neglect. A statewide program to repair and preserve Kentucky's covered bridges wasn't begun until 1996. All of Kentucky's remaining covered bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.