NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

Meems Bottom Bridge - A Step Back In Time

By: Michelle Harper

BridgeIt was about 8:30 when we decided to head out. Our original destination was to Charlottesville via the scenic route. But we were pretty free and easy on the agenda and had adopted the habit of never ending up where we intended anyway. Just face the wind and roll with the day.

We headed toward New Market on Rt. 211and stopped at one of those bygone souvenir stores that were old and musty since long before anyone I know was even born. I think they built them that way. The proprietor barely glanced up from his paper - obviously we weren't serious potential buyers. After checking out all the merchandise we headed out. I always wondered where those places got their inventory. I am sure there is a cedar box and high-gloss Elvis clock factory somewhere.

BridgeWhen we arrived in New Market, it was time to gas up. The clerk inside said that it was a perfect day to play hooky as he eyed us enviously. Then he added with a slightly spiteful tone that he hoped it would snow.

We had heard that there was a covered bridge in the area still in use but we weren't quite sure where to find it. Our first attempt to locate the bridge was a bit off. We ended up on a road that turned literally into a pasture. So we settled on the time proven method of stopping for directions at a gas station. Based on the information we were provided, we headed north on Rt 11 to Rt 720. We were also informed that the bridge can also be easily reached form I-81 in case you are interested in a less scenic route.

BridgeAfter faithfully following the directions, the object of our destination finally came within view - Meems Bottom Bridge, a perfectly restored old covered bridge that is still being used as a public road. Several cars passed by as my partner and I walked through the bridge to verify this fact. The occupants were obviously used to the bridge as part of their daily routine and barely looked past their steering wheels as they drove by. These vehicles seemed oddly out of place as we could almost hear the echoes of trotting horses and carriages that must have passed through many times over the years on their way to the farms on the other side of the river.

The bridge was dry and cool and smelled of hay and layers of dust inside that had never seen the direct sunlight or felt effects of weather. We walked along trying to peer between the cracks onto the water of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River gently flowing below. It was like being frozen in time as we looked through the tunnel out into a row of trees ceremoniously arching over the road.

BridgeThe beams of the bridge appeared sturdy and solid. The bridge has over a 200-foot single span Burr arch truss, which makes it the longest covered bridge still standing in Virginia. The bridge was built in 1894. After standing for more than 80 years, it was tragically destroyed by vandals on Halloween in 1976. Fortunately, however, the bridge was repaired, improved and reopened in 1979. Today, Meems Bottom Bridge is the last remaining covered bridge in Virginia maintained by the Department of Transportation for public use as a throughway.

In order to fully appreciate the bridge and its surroundings, my partner and I climbed down below and rested on a couple of large rocks along the bank of the river. A full trash can testified that others have also learned to appreciate this hidden treasure. My companion walked around and took a few pictures while I wrote a line or two. The lazy sounds of the river along with the distant hum of farm equipment had lulled us both into a mood of serenity. Our work day worries seemed to drift away with the current.


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