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Visiting the Ranger Bridge, Wells River, Vermont: Naming and Re-Naming at an Historic Connecticut River Crossing
An historic crossing at a weather-beaten New England location
The weather in New England can be very severe. Bound up with the Ranger Bridge (seen above from the Wells River, Vermont bank of the Connecticut River as it crosses into New Hampshire at Woodsville) are a great deal deal of severe weather and something of the history of Vermont and New Hampshire also. Since the 19th century, some local bridges have collapsed, whether because of high winds or the rising waters of the Connecticut provoked by high rainfall in these mountainous New England states.
The current Ranger Bridge (a previous bridge at the same location was also known by the same name), over which U.S. Route 302 crosses, dates from 1923. But it is in the nature of things that what is now known as the Wells River - Woodsville crossing should go back further, albeit not under the same name. Even the present Ranger Bridge was at its inception referred to as being at the 'Newbury' crossing with Woodsville, NH. (indeed, this is stated on a plaque at the bridge). While Wells River is indeed within the Township of Newbury, the crossing has for long been referred to as that of Wells River - Woodsville.
But in order to understand something of the significance of such crossings over the Connecticut River one must go back some centuries. While the ending of the so called French and Indian Wars undoubtedly aided the process of European settlement from the 1760s onwards, one must remember that such patterns of settlement in the Connecticut Valley followed as westward dynamic from the Colony of New Hampshire to the expanse of territory west of the Connecticut known as the New Hampshire Grants. (From West of Lake Champlain, the Colony of New York exercised similar designs over the territory of what is now Vermont — although the exploits of Ethan Allen and his Mountain Boys did significantly strengthen the independent standing of Vermonters during the Revolutionary Wars.) While there was no equivalent Vermont personality active in the Connecticut Valley comparable to Ethan Allen, the Connecticut River defines the natural boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire in ways no human personality or administrative edict ever did. Prior to its admittance to the Union in 1791, the eastern boundary of what had by then become the Republic of Vermont was already regarded as plainly fixed.
Thus went patterns of spatial radiation at crossings such as the one at Wells River - Woodsville.
But it is the New England natural elements which have also played a large role in the fate of Connecticut River crossings in the local area. As late as in 1979, the Bedell Covered Bridge (1), linking the same Township of Newbury with Haverhill, New Hampshire, was swept away by high winds. In 1922, the previous Ranger Bridge was destroyed by rising waters. It had lasted only 5 years since its construction.
But today the official name of the current Ranger Bridge in full is the Veterans Memorial / Ranger Bridge. This structure is a steel three hinged arched truss bridge (2). It was designed by J. R. Worcester and built by the Boston Bridge Company. Its length is 79 metres / 259 feet. In 2003 it was restored. The structure is now known as the Connecticut River's oldest steel arch bridge.
March 5, 2020
(1) The former Bedell Covered Bridge gives its name to New Hampshire's Bedell Bridge State Park in the 30 hectares / 74 acres adjacent to the former bridge's site.
(2) See also https://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMPG0J_Veterans_Memorial_Ranger_Bridge_Over_the_Connecticut_River_Haverhill_NH_Wells_River_VT
Some sourcing: Wikipedia
Also worth seeing
In Wells River itself, the Wells River Historic District includes the ornate Wells River Graded School, dating from 1874 (see also: http://www.crjc.org/heritage/V16-108.htm)
In Montpelier, (distance: 38.3 miles / 61.6 kilometres) notable visitor attractions include: the Greek Revival State House; the former studio of artist Thomas W. Wood; Christ Episcopal and Saint Augustine's Churches are significant examples of ecclesiastical architecture.
Stowe (distance: 59.4 miles / 95.6 kilometres) is a picturesque village which attracts many visitors especially during the skiing season, given its proximity to the slopes of Mount Mansfield, at 4395 feet / 1340 metres, Vermont's highest peak.
The Vermont Marble Museum, Proctor (distance: 94 miles / 151.1 kilometres)
Woodsville, New Hampshire (distance: 2.6 miles / 4.2 kilometres)
The Frost Place, Franconia, New Hampshire (distance: 23 miles / 37 kilometres) is a museum and poetry centre based in the former home of poet Robert Frost (1874-1963).
How to get there:
Burlington International Airport (distance to Wells River: 73.4 miles / 56 kilometres), where car rental is available from various companies, is served by a variety of airlines, including Porter, JetBlue, Delta and United, which fly to a number of North American connections. Wells River lies on US Route 302. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Visitors to the United States are advised to refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
Other of my hubpages may be of interest
- Visiting the Vermont State House, Montpelier, Vermont: Monumental Capitol Dominating A Tiny City
The work of Architect Thomas Silloway (1828-1910), the Greek Revival State House dominates the very small city of Montpelier, Vermont state capital.
- Visiting the Haverhill-Bath Covered Bridge, Woodsville, New Hampshire: Over the Ammonoosuc River, by
This Covered Bridge at Woodsville, New Hampshire, which crosses the Ammonoosuc River, was designed by architect and civil engineer Ithiel Town (1784-1844).