A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

By design, bridges are pieces of a journey — ones you’re meant to roll right over without a second thought. But in North Carolina, a few lone bridges are destinations.

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

By design, bridges are pieces of a journey — ones you’re meant to roll right over without a second thought. But in North Carolina, a few lone bridges are destinations.

Covered Bridges

The Bunker Hill Covered Bridge

By design, bridges are pieces of a journey — ones you’re meant to roll right over without a second thought. But in North Carolina, a few lone bridges are destinations.

In Catawba County, the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge is visited more often than it is traversed. History buffs make the trip west to see where the bridge lies on Island Ford Road — an old Native American trading path and the route of more than 500 British prisoners of war after the Battle of Cowpens in 1781, a critical Patriot victory during the Revolutionary War.

Lovers of historic architecture come for a closer look at the walls, constructed using an improved lattice truss design called a Haupt truss. When Andy L. Ramsour built the top of the bridge in 1900, he implemented the Haupt truss to ensure that the bridge would stand the tests of weather and time. Today, it is the only remaining wood example of this once revolutionary engineering method.

Bunker Hill Covered Bridge over the Catawba River

The Bunker Hill Covered Bridge was built in 1900. photograph by Jeff Yount/iStock/Getty Images Plus

And then there are the romantics who visit for the beauty and the solace of a covered bridge. They stand within its walls and imagine the young couples who might’ve stolen a kiss here or the families who traveled through. Who were they? Where were they going?

Only two original covered bridges remain in North Carolina: Bunker Hill near Claremont and the Pisgah Bridge in Randolph County. A few more have been built in the 20th and 21st centuries, but many of the new bridges were constructed more for aesthetics than practicality.

While covered bridges were once a beautiful addition to rural landscapes across the state and the country, they also served an important purpose. Many believe that the roofs and walls were meant to keep snow off the bridges or to protect travelers from other hazardous conditions, but the main point of covering these bridges was to ensure the structures’ longevity and protect them from rot. The architects behind these landmarks didn’t intend for the bridges to become historic portals scattered across the quieter parts of our state, structures that people would soon drive to, not through. They simply built them to last.


The Will Henry Stevens Bridge

The Will Henry Stevens Bridge was originally constructed in New Hampshire and moved to North Carolina. photograph by Emily Chaplin and Chris Council

A Bridge to The Bascom

Just off the Macon County portion of U.S. Highway 64, an 87-foot-long covered bridge guides visitors over a small creek to The Bascom, the center for visual arts in Highlands. The more than 200-year-old landmark is the Will Henry Stevens Bridge, named for a painter and painting instructor in Highlands in the early 20th century. It’s become an old-world portal to modern-day art.

The Bascom
323 Franklin Road
Highlands, NC 28741
(828) 526-4949
thebascom.org


Crank Up

Sanford
May 18-19

At the Ole Gilliam Mill Park in Sanford, visitors at the Crank Up event can hear the water rushing beneath them as they cross the 140-foot-long covered bridge — the longest in the state. Each year on the weekend following Mother’s Day, Ole Gilliam Mill Park “cranks up” all the equipment and machinery at the historic site, including the old sawmill, real whiskey stills, an 1870 steam engine, and a motorized log splitter. For two days out of the year, Sanford’s covered bridge turns back time.

To learn more, visit olegilliammill.org/crank-up.html.

This story was published on Apr 16, 2024

Katie Kane

Katie Kane is the assistant editor at Our State.