Another joy of New Brunswick is the old-fashioned charm of our 62 remaining covered bridges. Far from being relics, many of these historical, romantic structures remain part of the province’s secondary road network.
There are no less than 28 covered bridges to be seen close to the Bay of Fundy coast or along the Fundy Coastal Drive, including two within the Fundy National Park. With 16 spans, picturesque Sussex is considered the ‘Covered Bridge Capital of Atlantic Canada’. New Brunswick is home to the longest covered bridge in the world: the 390m long bridge at Hartland (off Highway 2 between Fredericton and Grand Falls) opened in 1901, and has been declared a Provincial and National Historic Site. Although not nearly as long, the covered bridge at Nelson Hollow (northeast of Fredericton) dates from 1900 and is New Brunswick’s oldest.
The bridges that stand today - most were originally built in the 19th century and then rebuilt in the 1900s - commemorate the pride of craftsmanship, heritage, engineering and design of our forefathers. Covered to protect the timber beams used in their construction from the elements, especially rot-causing rain and snow, the covered bridges tend to be wide with high roofs – there had to be room for horse-drawn cartloads of hay to pass through. Local legend tells that the covers were designed to resemble barns, so farm animals would feel more at home as they crossed the rushing river waters!
These wooden structures were long affectionately known as ‘kissing bridges’: in days of yore there was a commonly-held superstition that going too quickly through a covered bridge could cause the bridge to collapse. A law was passed ordering that horses had to slow their gait when crossing the bridge: when couples passed each other on the bridge, they would take advantage of the moments of privacy and steal a kiss or two.
The very names of the covered spans make you want to explore the province’s highways and byways to seek them out: look for Hardscrabble No. 2, Digdeguash River No. 3, or Odellach River No. 2 (Tomlinson Mill).
Bridge lovers should also be on the lookout for our wonderful footbridges, such as the fantastic 198m suspension bridge which crosses the Southwest Miramichi River near Doaktown and connects the communities of Priceville and McNamee. Also worth a look (and a photo or two) are the wooden Port Elgin Footbridge (over the Gaspereau River) and the steel span Kouchibouguac River no. 2, off Route 11 at Kouchibouguac.