Perrine's Bridge: Another Jewel in Ulster County
Covered bridges have an old time romanticism about them. Most people do know what a covered bridge is. Basically the covered bridge is a bridge built with a roof and sides. Most, if not all are made out of wood,l at least the ones we picture when we hear 'covered bridge'. They were built, years ago, with 'covers' to protect them from the weather...the protection was more for the traveler than the bridge as the wood had a tendency to deteriorate more quickly than the builders would have liked. They were built only wide enough to allow one lane of traffic, remembering that traffic was most likely a horse and carriage.
Covered bridges originated in Europe but move to the U.S. like so many other things we have in our culture. The longest existing covered bridge in the United States is in Pennsylvania. I would hazard a guess Pennsylvania has close to the highest number of existing covered bridges in the U.S. Covered bridges built today are usually for pedestrians and they are made out of steel beams, we know that wood, though beautiful, is far from practical for a bridge.
Among the existing covered bridges the United States, there is one in New York State, Ulster County. It is known as Perrine's Bridge and is located in a little town called Rifton (about two hours north of NYC). Although it was built for horse and wagon travel it has been a pedestrian only bridge since 1930. It was built in 1850 and restored in the late 1960s. In 1995 it was fully restored...closer to it's original condition than the 1960's restoration. The funds to rebuild were donated by local residents. No one wanted to see the bridge collapse or just fall apart. It had too much history and meant too much to the people in the area.
It is believed to be the oldest covered bridge of its type of construction (Burr Arch) still standing in New York State. There are various things written about it both in the past and in the present. Manufactured goods once passed over Perrine's Bridge to Rosendale where they could continue their journey on barges in the D&H Canal.
According to the NY Covered Bridge Society, Perrine's Bridge was built by Benjamin Wood. It is 154' long and 19' 10" wide with a height clearance of 11'. Perrine's bridge is 138 feet long and it spans across the Wallkill River. It was named after a French immigrant who owned a tavern nearby. It was declared an historical site in 1966.
Those are the basic facts about Perrine's Bridge, but what does it mean to the locals? To the locals it's a landmark, a destination, a place to picnic and a place to fish. Yes, all of these. It's quiet (even though it is right next to a thruway overpass). Off the main Rte. 32 and next to the thruway overpass, it is still sitting there by itself. People sometimes go there to sit and think and be alone. No one knows if its the construction, its silent strong appearance, or its age that seems to captivate the soul. As you walk across the bridge you almost feel transported to another time and place...waiting for a horse and carriage to come trotting across beside you and thinking you should be wearing your long dress or fancy trousers. It just has a romantic, old time air about it. You peak down the sides and see the water below you, young and old alike enjoy the sensation.
It's a great place to fish with kids. You don't need a boat, you can fish right from shore on either side. Of course the kids like to go fishing on the far side because it means they get to walk across the bridge. When you walk across the bridge you can see the river below on either side of the bridge floor where there are no floor boards. Once on the other side you can go under the thruway overpass or keep walking to fish out in the open. You could stay on the side of the bridge you are already on but that's not as much fun. You can climb down next to the bridge or go under the thruway overpass. The kids like it under the thruway overpass because there are lots, and I mean lots, of rocks they can throw into the water. It kind of ruins your fishing but it's fun for the kids. We've done a lot of fishing there with our kids. If we get there early enough we pack a lunch and eat it there. Several years ago the Hutteterians donated picnic tables and placed two along the river but we just went with blankets.
If you want to hike you can walk across the bridge and continue to the right to hike in the woods. Watch out for poison ivy of course. You may even run into some wildlife. Kids around eight or so like to stand back from the thruway overpass and watch the cars go by. It's okay as long as they don't get too close.
The beauty of the bridge and its surroundings are lost on no one. The children may not realize it while they are young but as they grow older and are drawn back to the bridge the unconscious beauty and good times they had bring them back.
The photos I have posted are all old and taken with old cameras so they really don't do the site justice.
Perrine's Bridge is another jewel of Ulster County.
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Different Views of Perrine's BridgeClick thumbnail to view full-size
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