Campbell’s Covered Bridge: Have you been there?

Published 10:00 pm Monday, March 9, 2015

How many times driving through Gowensville, have you passed the sign “Campbell’s Covered Bridge” with an arrow pointing toward the next turn? And how many times have you said to yourself, “Some day I need to go down that road and check that bridge out”?

One snowy day this winter, I decided it was time to drive down that road. With the sun peaking through the clouds and the new fallen snow glistening, it seemed like the perfect day to visit a covered bridge. I wound around the country road until I reached the park that surrounded the bridge.

There’s history here. The sign tells me the bridge was built in 1909 by Charles Irwin Willis and was named for Alexander Lafayette Campbell, who owned and operated a grist mill close by. It’s 35 feet long and 12 feet wide. It’s the last covered bridge remaining in South Carolina.

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The dusting of snow on the roof, the red paint on the sides of the bridge, the wintry woods and frozen rocks created a picture perfect, postcard scene. I’m sure the bridge and shallow stream that it straddles are an inviting temptation on a hot, steamy summer afternoon, and fall, with the trees of reds, golds, and browns as a backdrop, would be spectacular. But winter creates it’s own beauty. Jack frost paints a silent, peaceful world and where better to experience this world than to amble through the protective, wooden walls of a covered bridge.

The Internet informed me that it’s significant for its role in transportation in the early 20th century. It connected several rural communities and small towns in the immediate vicinity. A 25-mile trip that had once taken a full day was shortened to about an hour once the bridge was built. It’s called a four span Howe truss bridge. The method of truss construction absorbs and transfers the weight of a passing vehicle to the rock abutments at each end of the bridge.

This is all interesting but I’m more intrigued by the romance of the bridge. An old covered bridge suggests the long ago times of horse and buggy when a on a snowy, blustery night, or during a rainy spring downpour, the bridge with its protective beams and sidewalls offered a refuge from the storms of the dark, gloomy night.

As I pass through the bridge and glance at the icy water below, visible between the slats of the floor, I can imagine the horses, stopping for relief, shaking drips from their heads while the occupants of the carriage also relax for a few minutes before proceeding into the wet, cold weather. Or maybe young lovers stole a forbidden kiss, hidden from view. There’s something about a covered bridge that stirs the imagination.

So next time you pass the sign with the arrow pointing to Campbell’s Covered Bridge, slow down, turn the car around, wander down the side road, and visit a piece of history. You won’t be disappointed.

By Linda List