Covered Bridges of Blount County, AlabamaFaith Forrest/shutterstock
Lovers of old-fashioned covered bridges can find a trove of these historic spans on the back roads of Alabama, where 10 19th- and early 20th-century examples are still in daily use. Each wooden bridge is unique in style and size, and the oldest predate the Civil War.
A good place to start a tour is Oneonta, the county seat of Blount County and Alabama’s Covered Bridge Capital. From Oneonta you can easily drive to three scenic bridge sites. Easley Bridge (1927) is a single-span 95-foot-long tin-roofed bridge over Dub Branch creek in the community of Rosa. Swann Bridge (c. 1933, shown here), originally named Joy Bridge, crosses the Black Warrior River; at 324 feet, it’s the longest of the covered bridges remaining in Alabama. Horton Mill Bridge (1935) also spans the Black Warrior. Rising 70 feet above the river gorge, it’s not only the nation’s highest covered bridge over water but also the first Southern bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Arizonarenzedyk/shutterstock
A fluke of nature created by millennia of rock melting, shifting, settling, and finally eroding away, Tonto Natural Bridge is a 400-foot-long tunnel cut through by burbling Pine Creek. It is the world’s largest bridge formed of travertine (calcareous rock deposited by mineral springs), measuring 183 feet tall and up to 150 feet wide and looming over a picturesque canyon.
The canyon and its star attraction were discovered in 1877 by a Scottish prospector named David Gowan, who hid in one of the area’s many caves while on the run from Apaches; he later moved his family here. Today visitors take in the canyon and bridge from lookouts as well as the trails. Check out these stunning photos of America’s national parks.