Visiting the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, NH

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The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge runs across the Connecticut River, just west of Route 12A, and joins the towns of Cornish, New Hampshire and Windsor, Vermont. This picturesque bridge was constructed in 1866 and is full of New England charm and history.

In fact, Cornish-Windsor was once the longest covered bridge in the United States! Today it’s the longest two-span covered bridge in the world, and the longest wooden covered bridge in the country.

The beautiful Cornish-Windsor Bridge is now a major tourist attraction. Many visitors to both New Hampshire and Vermont choose to stop and check out this historic site, which is one of the longest wooden bridges to still stand, and enjoy the quaint beauty of covered bridges.

The bridge runs 449 feet and 5 inches long and is 24 feet wide, making it comfortably two-lanes. It also is permitted for cars to drive across the Cornish-Windsor Bridge, and this is one of the major crossing points in the region. This feature makes it distinct from many similar historic covered bridges, which often only allow pedestrians and foot traffic to cross.

A long wooden covered bridge spanning a wide river in a rural area.

History of the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge

Though the current bridge was built in 1866 by Bela Fletcher, it’s actually the fourth bridge in this location, and the roots of the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge date back to the 18th century. The earliest of the previous three bridges was constructed in 1796. However, these first bridges were all demolished by flood water, despite each new bridge being built taller than the last.

The Cornish-Windsor Bridge is made entirely of wood. It is also architecturally notable for using the Town lattice truss, which was patented by architect Ithiel Town. His design is a method of ensuring that weight is distributed in a more equal manner.

This bridge is not the longest to have ever used this type of pattern, though it is the longest to still be standing. The Town lattice truss bridge with the most length to have ever existed measured 2,820 feet and was located in Virginia, before being destroyed by the Confederate army in the Civil War.

The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge was originally privately owned and operated as a toll bridge. It was bought by the government in 1936 after the funds were allotted by the New Hampshire General Court. Though, the state of New Hampshire continued to charge a toll to those looking to cross until 1943.

The bridge is also notable for being on the National Register of Historic Places, an honor it was awarded in 1976, and for being a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, as granted by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1970. It is also listed in the World Guide to Covered Bridges with the number 29-10-09 and is depicted on the Town Bicentennial Medal from 1976.

The front of a covered bridge. Above the opening a sign reads "Walk your horses or pay two dollars fine."
Walk your horses or pay two dollars fine!

Things to Do Near the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge

If you’re exploring the Upper Connecticut Valley, it’s worth checking out some of the other amazing places in the area. This part of Sullivan County, and New England in general, is home to many beautiful and historic attractions.

Saint-Gaudens: Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is a pleasant place to spend a nice afternoon. You can explore the estate of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of the most acclaimed sculptors in American history, by taking tours of his home or hiking the trails that run across the grounds.

In addition to preserving the beautiful home and lovely gardens, this national historic park also features numerous pieces of Saint-Gaudens’ work to admire, including his statue of Abraham Lincoln.

Cornish’s Covered Bridges: If you’re a fan of covered bridges, you’ll love exploring Cornish, New Hampshire. The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge might be the longest and most popular one around, but there are plenty of others that have just as much charm.

For instance, the Blow-Me-Down Bridge in nearby Plainfield is a nice wooden bridge in the woods, and Cornish’s Dingleton Hill Bridge has a similar vibe. The Blacksmith Shop Bridge, running across Mill Brook in Cornish, is closed to traffic and worn, but safe to walk on and beautiful to photograph. All of these bridges have plenty of history and were build by James Tasker.

Hanover: One of the nicest towns in the Dartmouth-Sunapee region is Hanover, New Hampshire. This little New England town is famous for being the home to Ivy League school Dartmouth College. The campus is lovely and definitely worth exploring. Dartmouth is home to the Hood Museum of Art, a wonderful free art museum with constantly changing exhibitions.

However, there are also some other great stops to make in Hanover. The area is full of natural beauty, so a visit to Pine Park is always in order. You also won’t want to miss just wandering the Main Street or stopping in at Lou’s Restaruant and Bakery for a bite. We at New Hampshire Way are big fans of the Base Camp Cafe, a Nepalese restaurant in downtown Hanover.

Lake Sunapee: If you’d rather commune with nature, instead of exploring the local towns and communities, then make sure you don’t miss going to Lake Sunapee. This beautiful body of water is surrounded by mountains and forests and is a phenomenal place to have a beach day and take in some sun. We love the beach at Mt. Sunapee State Park.

If you’re around in the colder months, or just want to get the views without the visit, you can also drive along the Lake Sunapee Scenic Byway. This 39-mile route surrounds the lake and offers a stunning look at the New England landscapes, without requiring you to ever leave your vehicle. And if you feel like exploring, the town of Sunapee is lovely.

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