I don’t know why but I really love covered bridges……..maybe it’s the fact there is always so much history behind them and there are not many left. The Bunker Hill Covered Bridge was designated as a National Civil Engineering Landmark in 2001, and the only remaining wooden example of the Improved Lattice Truss patented by General Herman Haupt in 1839 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Haupt was the Chief of Military Railroads for the union army during the Civil War and he was the first to develop this method of truss building. His book in 1851 “General Theory of Bridge Construction,” is one of the earlist American books on bridge engineering.
One of only two original covered bridges in North Carolina, Catawba County Commissioners in 1894 had asked nearby owners of Bunker Hill Farm to build and maintain a bridge that crossed Lyle’s Creek on the old Island Ford Road, a former Native American trail and in 1895 Bunker Hill Covered Bridge was built. To protect its timbers from the weather, workers covered the bridge in 1900 with a ninety-one foot roof, and in 1921, replaced the wooden shingles with a tin roof. In 1985, the Bolick Family donated the bridge to the Catawba County Historical Association and in 1994 the structure was restored.
The location of the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge played an important role not only in the Civil War but also during the American Revolution. During the Battle of Cowpens in 1781, General Morgan detached 531 British prisoners under the guard of Colonel William Washington’s dragoons and Colonel Charles McDowell over the Island Ford Road—the route where the bridge rests. The men crossed Lyle’s Creek at the Bunker Hill Ford on their way to the Island Ford of the Catawba River, where they were then conveyed to Virginia.
Open only to pedestrians now, you can reach the bridge located about 200 yards down a gravel access road from the parking lot. As you approach Lyle’s Creek, you can’t miss the quaint and rustic looking covered bridge that spans it. With the exception of some minor graffiti on the inside, the bridge is in great shape and is an amazing example of late 19th century engineering and construction.
There are several informational signs and posters that explain all about the bridge, its history, and the unique design that was used as well as why bridges are covered. There is also a small trail that will take you further upstream so that you can get a nice view from afar of the bridge spanning Lyle’s Creek and circles back to the parking lot.
Bunker Hill Covered Bridge is located at 4266 U.S. Highway 70 in Claremont North Carolina. It is easily reached from interstate 40 by taking exit 138 from the North, or exit 135 from the South. From either direction just turn on Highway 70 to continue either north or southbound in the direction you were traveling on the Interstate and you can’t miss it. There is good signage indicating both the bridge and Connor Park where it is located. The grounds of the park are very nicely maintained with plenty of paved parking, picnic tables, and wide well groomed trails.