Covered bridges

Leon Archer
Leon Archer

by Leon Archer

Washington County has never been at the top of my list in the past when I was thinking about outdoor activities, but that is not a reflection on what they have to offer.

It’s only thaat many of us, including myself, have a tendency to be creatures of habit when it comes to where we fish and hunt, and to some extent, where we vacation.

That’s more than a bit unfortunate when one lives in a state that has such a large variety of activities to offer and some of the country’s greatest venues. From Niagara Falls to the Finger Lakes and on to Lake Champlain, from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence bordering the North to the Atlantic Ocean with Long Island cradled in her arms to the south, along with and all the streams, rivers, lakes and ponds in between, we have nearly limitless swimming, boating, and fishing opportunities within a few hours drive.

It took me a little over three hours to drive from Fulton to Cambridge in southern Washington County for the New York State Outdoor Writers Association Spring Safari. I took my grandson, Nathaniel, with me, because I knew I would be doing some fishing, and I don’t get as much time as I would like to do that with him.

Lake George and Lake Champlain border Washington County and I am sure I could fish them many times and never be bored, but for this trip I had the famous Battenkill River in mind. Nathaniel and I were going to fish for trout.

Most of the writers stayed at Battenkill Valley Outdoors in their long lodge. The owners, Don and Lisa Oty, were wonderful hosts; the lodge was comfortable and right next to the Battenkill River.

The Eagleville covered bridge is just a short distance down the road from the lodge and that was where Nathaniel and I would begin fishing. We tried hunting turkeys the first morning of our stay, but we had gotten up a little too late for a good hunt and after a couple hours watching leaves grow and song birds flit about, we headed for the stream. It was much more rewarding.

Nathaniel was intrigued by the covered bridge and just like a kid, he had lots of questions which I tried to answer, but I have to admit that I am hardly a covered bridge expert. Don’t laugh! How much do you know about covered bridges?

Here are the practical reasons for covered bridges, just in case one of your grandkids should ask you: the roof allowed water to be kept off the floor planking and beams, allowing them to last many times longer than an uncovered wooden bridge which could rot out in as little as ten years, and thus saved money on repairs and replacement.

The walls protected from the weather also to a lesser extent, but in addition it was claimed that they helped keep horses calm when crossing a swollen, fast moving river (they couldn’t see it). Horses also had no compunction against entering a covered bridge – it looked exactly like the entrance to a barn.

On the romantic side, it was said that a covered bridge was a favorite spot for courting couples to exchange a kiss, sort of like a drive-in movie without the added entertainment. Whatever the reasons for them, they look really great and are a wonderful subject for artists. So there you have it in a nutshell.

There are other covered bridges in Washington County, one of which is the Shushan Bridge that has been made into a museum. It was not far from the Eagleville Bridge, which is still used by regular traffic today.

Nathaniel and I settled down to fishing in the huge picturesque pool under the bridge after we finished admiring the structure. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful setting, and it turned out to be the only place where I outfished my grandson that weekend.

To read the rest of the column, pick up a copy of The Valley News. You can subscribe by calling 598-6397 or click on the link on our home page.

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