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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

West Cornwall Bridge - Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

I lived in Connecticut for over a decade and never visited the northwestern corner of the state. If I am being honest, I never even made it past Waterbury and that was maybe once. That far upper left corner of the state known as the Litchfield Hills, and also the "Quiet Corner" of the state, is the foothills to the Berkshire Mountains on the Massachusetts border.  The area is known for it's old inns, quaint restaurants, expanse farm land and mountains.  The Housatonic River and the Farmington River along with various lakes attract outdoor enthusiasts looking to raft and fish in this quiet section of the state. There are various state parks and antique shops bordering the old backroads through this part of the state.  Its a beautiful part of the state that I can only summarize as quaint.  So why have I waited this long to visit?  Living on the shoreline, you seldom find a reason to leave and it always seemed so far.  After living in Utah, barely batting an eye at a 4 hour drive to Moab for a weekend in the dessert, I promised myself to venture out further and treat New England like its own adventure.  

Litchfield makes up the center of this section of the state with Cornwall, Norwalk and Torrington to the north, Kent to the west, and New Milford, Washington and Woodbury to the south.  I had heard amazing things about the beautiful town of Kent and this corner of the state in general.  But with one day and a 2:15 hour drive, I  had to be a little choosy on what I was doing with my day in the Quiet Corner.  The plan was to hike the tallest peak in Connecticut, Bear Mountain in Salisbury (the most northwestern town in the state). 

Flipping through my New England travel book planning my trip to the Litchfield Hills I came across a picture of a covered bridge in the Town of Cornwall.   There is something so idyllic and charming about a covered bridge over a pretty winding river in a sleepy little New England town.  Give it a name like Cornwall and I am in.  I leafed through the book and glanced at some routes to discover there is Cornwall, the Cornwall Bridge, West Cornwall, Cornwall Hollow, East Cornwall, and North Cornwall.  So many Cornwalls, so little time.  With only one day and so many Cornwalls, I decided to visit the famous bridge in West Cornwall that spans the length of the Housatonic River, the perfect quick photo op on my way to Salisbury.

The West Cornwall Bridge is a single lane wooden bridge on Route 128 in West Cornwall.  The bridge is at the junction of Route 7 and Route 128, carrying the Goshen/Sharon turnpike over the Housatonic River.  If you are traveling the backroads to Cornwall, this is your route.  The bridge was built in 1841 and incorporates strut techniques that were later copied by bridge builders around the country.  The bridge allows single lane access and is 172 feet long and 15 feet wide.  

Various bridges have spanned this same spot possibly as early as 1762. Peter Vermilyea, author of Hidden History of Litchfield County (yes there are a ton of books like this about old New England Towns), states that wooden bridges had typical life spans of seven to ten years due to flooding, ice damage and traffic.  A 20 ton oil truck once fell through the bridge floor in the mid 1990's.   Demands on the bridge were increasing and in 1968, the State of Connecticut wanted to replace the already 100 year old historic bridge.  

A local committee was formed to save the bridge after the state added the landmark on its lists of bridges to repair.  Instead of a complete replacement and thanks to the local committee, the Department of Transportation raised the bridge an additional two feet and reinforced the base with steel. The project won an award for the successful historic preservation of this iconic Connecticut landmark.  To this day, this bridge is only one of three surviving covered bridges remaining in the state. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and can be seen on various postcards romanticizing this idyllic section of the state. 

Reading about the history of this covered bridge just made me swoon that much more.  We parked on the main road by the cutest cafe called the Wandering Moose and walked over to the park entrance.   The entrance accessing the base of the covered bridge and the Housatonic River is called "River Park".  Pets are welcome and there is a small trail accessing the river.  We watched a fly fishermen wading in the river and stopped to take a few photos before heading back to the car.  Once back in the car we waited our turn and crossed the bridge, continuing our trek to Salisbury.

Other area attractions:  Wandering Moose Cafe, Housatonic Meadows State Park, Sharon Audobon Center, Cornwall Inn, Housatonic Anglers fishing trips, and Clarke Outdoors for kayak and rafting trips.  

If you are in this corner of the state, a stop in the lovely town of Cornwall is a must.  You feel like you are wandering through a Vermont town in this quaint corner of the state.  A photo op by the bridge is a must and a coffee at the Wandering Moose before continuing north is recommended.  Next stop Salisbury. 


  1. Just for fun several years ago, I drove over the West Cornwall bridge on my way home from Lime Rock Park. It was an odd experience. Having never driven over a covered bridge before, I wasn't completely sure I would survive it.

    I've walked through the Old Comstock Bridge in Colchester. I have yet to visit Bull's Bridge (someday, maybe).

    1. I actually passed right by Lime Rock Park over the weekend. I have yet to visit the other two bridges but would like to!


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