Rutland County Bridges: A Tour
By Julia Purdy
Who doesn’t love a covered bridge?
Nothing symbolizes Vermont’s heritage better than covered bridges – in fact, with just over 100 state-owned covered bridges remaining from the original 700-800, Vermont can boast more per mile. square than anywhere else in the United States. At one time, almost every public highway crossed a stream on a covered bridge. Many remain; many more have since succumbed to epic flooding, vandalism, or age and been replaced with modern streamlined concrete spans, but the State Transportation Agency’s covered bridge program and communities who own them, the Vermont Covered Bridge Society (vermontbridges.org) and dozens of covered bridge fans, ensure that as many fans as possible are preserved and remain in service.
Covered bridges have their own mystique. Where better to steal a kiss with your honey in semi-darkness? There are local stories of robberies, murders and hauntings. Floor railings and openings frame unforgettable country scenes. Swallows and flycatchers nest in the beams.
Note: These bridges on these circuits are all single lane. Slow down and check for oncoming vehicles and pedestrians before crossing. Turn on the headlights and walk across. Most bridges have small parking spaces on each side. Please respect private property.
Rutland County is the setting for seven working (and one non-working) covered bridges within easy driving distance of the city. Below is the first of two self-guided tours by car, motorbike or bicycle.
South Covered Bridge Loop
Stop #1: North Clarendon – Brown Covered Bridge – 1880 – 100′ – carries Upper Cold River Road across Cold River. Bridgewright: Nichols [sic] Powers. Listed as a National Historic Landmark, 2014.
Getting there: Start at Main Street Park, across from Christ the King Church. Go south on S. Main Street (Route 7) one mile and turn L on Cold River Road. At the T, turn right for 8.5 km. to Upper Cold River Road on the left. This is a sudden left turn on a bend, so slow down and watch for oncoming traffic. Parking at both ends of the bridge, with a historical marker and a trailhead in the new 1,349-acre preserved Jim Jeffords State Forest.
Upper Cold River Road is 1 dirt lane from Cold River Road, with a steep incline to the river. The downstream approach to the bridge was reduced to a footpath when Tropical Storm Irene sent a torrent into the gorge in 2011. Miraculously, the bridge survived as the river surrounded it. Even more amazing, one end of the bridge rests on a single gigantic piece of exposed ledge. In 2016, the road was rebuilt and improved, and the bridge was authentically restored by a professional carpenter.
Stop #2. East Clarendon – Kingsley Covered Bridge – 1836 – 121′ – crosses River Mill at Gorge Road -Bridgewright: Timothy Horton.
Directions: Continue on Upper Cold River Road. At 13.2 km. turn right onto Wilmouth Hill Road (unmarked with a residence on the corner) and cross the bridge. Turn right on Cold River Road. At 23 km turn left onto North Shrewsbury Road and immediately turn left onto East Clarendon Road. At 28 km. turn left onto VT-103 and make a quick right onto Airport Road. At 29.2 km. Turn left onto Gorge Road. Kingsley Covered Bridge is a short distance away.
East Clarendon is a group of private houses near the Kingsley Bridge and Flour Mill (private property), components of a National Register District as well as a 1778 house built by a British War veteran. independence who started a mill on the site. The operation included a sawmill and a flour mill, which operated from 1882 to 1935. The area includes a stable from 1885, the 5-storey mill building and the remains of the mill dam.
Return to Rutland via the pretty farming community of Clarendon. Continue on Gorge Road to Route 7, then cross the highway to the village.
Note: As you enter the village, the handsome 1823 Federal style brick house on the left was the home of Nichols Powers, the renowned builder with many covered bridges to his name as well as the Kingsley Grist Mill. Timothy Horton, who built the Kingsley Bridge, lived across from Powers. Both had direct access to the site via Gorge Road.
Continue on Middle Road due north. At the stop sign at 23.8 miles, return to Route 7 towards Rutland turning right onto Moulton Avenue OR continue straight onto Middle Road.
U-Tour #2 will feature six covered bridges in northern Rutland County, plus a special bonus, one of the last two railroad covered bridges in the state.