Monday, November 19, 2018

Episode 447 (11-19-18): Discovering Virginia's Covered Bridges for Thanksgiving Week 2018

Click to listen to episode (3:50).

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, photos, and additional information follow below.

Except as otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 11-16-18.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of November 19, 2018.

MUSIC – ~12 sec

That’s an excerpt of “Shenandoah,” played by Timothy Seaman of Williamsburg, accompanied by Paulette Murphy.   As we approach Thanksgiving—a holiday that, for many people, means traveling home to connections and memories—“Shenandoah” sets the stage for learning about a type of historic structure for traveling over water, including over a fork of the Shenandoah River.  Have a listen for about 20 seconds to some guest voices and some mystery sounds, and see if you can guess that type of structure.  And here’s a hint: with a little thought, you’ll have this mystery covered.

SOUNDS and VOICES - ~18 sec

If you guessed covered bridges, you’re right!  You heard the names of three of the four publicly owned covered bridges in Virginia, along with the sounds of streams flowing under them: Sinking Creek Bridge, over Sinking Creek in Giles County; Jacks Creek Bridge, over the Smith River in Patrick County; and Humpback Bridge, over Dunlap Creek in Alleghany County.   The fourth public covered bridge still existing in the Commonwealth is Meems Bottom Bridge, over the North Fork Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County, the only Virginia covered bridge that’s still part of a public roadway.

These four bridges, plus three privately owned ones, are the only remaining examples of the hundreds of covered bridges built in Virginia from about the 1820s to about the 1920s.  In their time, the coverings offered a practical way to help preserve bridges, and their builders exhibited remarkable design and construction skill.  Today, as noted by Claire Foster in a March 2018 article for Lynchburg Living, “These captivating structures are more than just wood and nails—they serve as a glimpse into our country’s history and culture.”

Thanks to three Virginia Tech co-workers for lending their voices to this episode.  Thanks also to Timothy Seaman for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with a few more seconds of “Shenandoah.”  Happy Thanksgiving!

MUSIC - ~ 21 sec


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


The sounds heard in this episode were recorded as follows:
Sinking Creek – near Newport in Giles County, Va., December 21, 2014;
Smith River – near Woolwine in Patrick County, Va., January 15, 2017;
Dunlap Creek – west of Covington in Alleghany County, Va., October 28, 2018.

The guest voices were recorded at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg on November 16, 2018.  Thanks to Michael Calfee, Susan Hypes, and Kevin McGuire for participating in this episode.

The “Shenandoah” excerpt, performed by Timothy Seaman and Paulette Murphy, was from the track “Hazel River” on the 1997 album “Here on this Ridge,” copyright Timothy Seaman and Pine Wind Music, used with permission.  This music was featured in Virginia Water Radio Episode 130 (10/1/12).  More information about Timothy Seaman is available online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.   More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Sinking Creek Bridge over Sinking Creek, Giles County, Va., December 21, 2014.

Jacks Creek Bridge over the Smith River, Patrick County, Va., January 15, 2017.

Humpback Bridge over Dunlap Creek, Alleghany County, Va., October 28, 2018.

Meems Bottom Bridge over the North Fork Shenandoah River, Shenandoah County, October 13, 2012.

LOVEwork sculpture at Humpback Bridge (in background), Alleghany County, Va., October 28, 2018.  Following is information from a sign at the sculpture: “The Virginia Tourism Corporation has chosen Humpback Bridges across the state to build and promote a giant LOVEwork.  The LOVEwork structures are the focal point of a social media campaign to share the message that love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation.   The Humpback Bridge will join with other existing LOVEwork sculptures…as part of the Virginia is for Lovers tourism campaign.  [For the Humpback Bridge sculpture], each of the materials was chosen for its significance in the heritage of the Alleghany Highlands: the "L" was created with historic bricks from the area; the "O "is a gear from one of the retired paper machines at MeadWestvaco representing the history of manufacturing in the area; the "V" is the natural feature created by a tree in the creek bank; the "E" was created with railroad ties representing the history of the railroad to our community.”  More information about LOVEworks sculptures is available online at


As noted in the audio, the four landmark covered bridges open to the public are the following:
Meem’s Bottom Bridge, built in 1894, over the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in Shenandoah County;
Jack’s Creek Bridge, built in 1914, over the Smith River in Patrick County;
Sinking Creek Bridges, built about 1916, over Sinking Creek in Giles County;
Humpback Bridge, built in 1857, over Dunlap Creek in Alleghany County.

Note that the Bob White Covered Bridge, built in 1921, also over the Smith River in Patrick County (upstream of the Jacks Creek Bridge), was destroyed by floodwaters on September 28, 2015.

The following is from the Virginia Department of Transportation, “Covered Bridges of Virginia” Web site, online at, information as of 9/26/18.

“In memory or imagination, covered bridges conjure up sights and sounds of days gone by. In Virginia, they began to dot the countryside nearly two centuries ago. Spanning rivers and streams, their number grew to the hundreds.

“Eventually they gave way to their vulnerability to flood and fire, and to the technology that replaced the wooden peg with the metal bolt and the broadtimbers with narrow steel. By 1900, the overhead steel truss bridge had become the engineers' design of choice.

“Relatively few covered bridges survived into the early years of the 20th century. Most of them reflected the evolution in design of three pioneers in the annals of bridge construction:
Theodore Burr, who patented the Burr arch bridge in 1817;
Ithiel Town, who patented the Town lattice design in 1835; and
William Howe, who in 1840 patented a design that combined iron uprights with wooden supports.

“Today in Virginia, only seven covered bridges still stand. Four have been preserved as landmarks and three are on private property. You are invited to visit these picturesque structures that span time as well as water.”


Used for Audio

Paul Collins, Covered Bridge Festival returns to Woolwine this weekend, Martinsville Bulletin, 6/14/18.

Claire Molineaux Foster, “Virginia’s Covered Bridges,” Lynchburg Living, 3/1/18, online at

Katarina Kovacevic, “America’s Most Beautiful Covered Bridges,” Travel+Leisure, 9/11/13, online at

Patrick County, Va., Tourism, “Jack’s Creek Covered Bridge,” online at

Virginia Department of Transportation, “Covered Bridges of Virginia,” 2008 video (28 min./4 sec.), online at

Virginia Department of Transportation, “Covered Bridges of Virginia” Web site, online at, information as of 9/26/18.

James Walsh, “[Va.] Covered Bridge Map,” online at

Ben Williams, Bob White Covered Bridge washed away, Martinsville Bulletin, 9/29/15.

For More Information about Covered Bridges in Virginia and Elsewhere

National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, Hillsboro, New Hampshire, online at Publishes World Guide to Covered Bridges, Seventh Edition, 2009; ordering information online at

Thomas D. Perry, “In Memory and Imagination…”: Patrick County’s Covered Bridges, Tom Perry’s Laurel Hill Publishing LLC, Ararat, Va., 2016.

Leola B. Pierce, Covered Bridges in Virginia, Upstream Press, Glen Rose, Tex., 2002.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “History” and “Overall Importance of Water” subject categories.

Following are links to some previous episodes related to aspects of this week’s episode.
Alleghany Highlands (which includes Alleghany County) – Episode 379, 7/31/17.
Bridges – Episode 245, 12/22/14.
Giles County – Episode 222, 7/14/14.
Jackson River (Dunlap Creek is a tributary of the Jackson River) – Episode 428, 7/9/18.
Shenandoah River or Valley – Episode 130, 10/1/12; Episode 331, 8/29/16; Episode 355, 2/13/17.
Smith River – Episode 360, 3/20/17.

Following are links to previous episodes for Thanksgiving.
Episode 189, 11/25/13 – Thanks for the Water – 2013 Edition.
Episode 291, 11/23/15 – Thanks for Musical Measures of Water.
Episode 343, 11/21/16 – Wild Turkey and Water.
Episode 395, 11/20/17 – Thanks for the Water – 2017 edition.


2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Va. watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Physics Course
PH.4 – applications of physics to the real word, including roles of science and technology.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-6 History Theme
1.2 – Virginia history and life in present-day Virginia.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

United States History to 1865 Course
USI.5 – factors that shaped colonial America and conditions in the colonies, including how people interacted with the environment to produce goods and services.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.
Episode 250 (1-26-15) – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255 (3-2-15) – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282 (9-21-15) – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309 (3-28-16) – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 332 (9-12-16) – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403 (1-15-18) – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404 (1-22-18) – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406 (2-5-18) – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407 (2-12-18) – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.