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159-year-old Humpback Bridge in Alleghany County survives another flood

159-year-old Humpback Bridge in Alleghany County survives another flood

A four-foot rise apparently helped the 159-year-old Humpback Bridge in Alleghany County survive another flood.

After a close brush with floodwaters in June, Virginia’s oldest covered bridge is back in business.

Humpback Bridge in Alleghany County was reopened to the public in mid-August, following repairs to abutments on each side of the 110-foot span over Dunlap Creek, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Built in 1857, the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 1929. But it remained open to pedestrians and became a popular attraction for those who visit the historic structure on a 5-acre wayside off Interstate 64 west of Covington.

In the past, engineers figured that putting a roof on a wooden bridge would extend its life. But that didn’t do much good with floods.

Three bridges in the same spot were washed away in the 1830s, 1840s and 1850s, according to VDOT.

On their fourth try, builders made the middle of the arched bridge four feet higher than at its ends.

“That apparently really helped” on June 23, VDOT spokeswomen Sandy Myers said, when severe flooding in the area damaged the more modern abutments on the sides of Humpback Bridge while just missing the most important part.

Repair crews worked nearly two months before the bridge and adjacent wayside could be reopened.

One of seven remaining covered bridges in the state, Humpback Bridge has been designated as a Virginia Historic Landmark and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It underwent a restoration three years ago. Two years ago the bridge and its foundation had to be cleaned up after it was vandalized with spray paint.

Until a year ago Virginia had eight covered bridges. The Bob White Covered Bridge across the Smith River in the Patrick County community of Woolwine was washed away Sept. 29.

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Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

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