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The covered bridges of Frederick County

Utica Mills Covered Bridge. The Burr Arch Truss construction is partly visible from the entrance.
Utica Mills Covered Bridge. The Burr Arch Truss construction is partly visible from the entrance. (Bill May photo)

Several years ago, while roaming some side roads off Md. 15 near the Catoctin Mountain Park entrance I found an enchanting covered bridge. Recently I decided to try to find it again. I did, the Roddy Road Bridge, and I did a lot better than that.

At the Catoctin Mountain Park Visitors Center I came across a small, color brochure on the three covered bridges in Frederick County. Produced by the Tourism Council of Frederick County, Inc. and printed on quality rigid paper, it shows pictures and gives brief descriptions of each bridge. It also mentions nearby attractions, including the Catoctin and adjoining Cunningham Falls State Park.

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Best of all, in my mind, it has a map and detailed instructions for a 33-mile route that takes in all three bridges. I had no problem at all following the precise, detailed directions. Proving my point further, at the end of my tour I met a woman photographer at the Roddy Road Bridge who circled in on it with some difficulty via Internet searches and GPS. Therefore I have incorporated the directions in this article.

I followed the recommended route, driving north from just north of Frederick to the edge of Thurmont.

Utica Mills Covered Bridge. This is the largest of the three bridges at 101 feet. Originally built in 1850 spanning the Monacacy River, it was washed away by a flood in 1889. Local citizens gathered remnants used in building the current bridge over Fishing Creek. A unique feature is the Burr Arch Truss construction.

Directions: Start the tour at the junction of US 15 (Catoctin Mountain Highway) and Old Frederick Road. Turn right on Old Frederick Road, drive 1.5 miles and turn left onto Utica Road to the bridge. Parking is very limited. coming from this direction, but if you drive through the bridge you'll find a pullover area on the right. Drive back through the bridge to pick up the recommended route.

Loy's Station Covered Bridge. This 90-foot bridge crosses Owens Creek and features multiple truss and King Post construction. Originally built around 1880 it was rebuilt in 1991 after extensive arson damage.

Loy's Station Park beside the bridge has a playground, picnic tables, a pavilion and bathrooms.

Directions: from the Union Mills Bridge, return to old Frederick Road and turn left on it. Go 3.9 miles to a stop sign just upon entering Creagerstown. Turn left at the stop sign onto MD 550. Go .4 miles and turn right onto Old Frederick Road. Drive 2 miles and make a left into the parking lot at Loy's Station Park.

Roddy Road Covered Bridge. With a 40-foot span over Owens Creek this is the smallest of the three. In my opinion it is the prettiest. The bridge was built around 1850 and features King Post construction. There is a parking lot at the intersection. Often you can see trout and other fish in Owens Creek from the banks at the bridge.

Directions: from the Loy's Station parking lot turn left and drive through the bridge .3 miles to a stop sign. Turn left onto Rocky Ridge Road (Md. 77) and go 2.7 miles to make a right turn on Apples Church Road in Thurmont. Drive 1.6 miles to the bridge; the road becomes Roddy Road at the Graceham intersection. Drive through the bridge to the parking lot on the left. To return, turn right from the parking lot and drive .4 miles to the junction of U.S. 15. A left turn will take you south into Thurmont, the parks or Frederick.

All three bridges are barn red and set in scenery that is beautiful year-round, and all are listed on the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places. They're all single lane and in use, so use caution when walking through and around the bridges. I imagine you can get some beautiful pictures in the snow, but be aware that the roads mentioned are not major roads, so snow and ice may linger. Use caution.

This can be a great family trip. It's nearby and surrounded by other fine attractions. The brochure mentioned is available at places offering tourism information. To get this brochure and other good tourist information, go to www.fredericktourism.org or call 1-800-999-3613.

An Internet search of covered bridges in Maryland reveals only six exist over three counties (plus two on private property). You can find tour routes for them all, but the three Frederick County bridges are so close together and in such close proximity to Carroll County that this tour should go to the top of any bucket list.

410-857-7896

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