A recent playdate brought us 40 minutes north of Greenville, to Campbell’s Covered Bridge in Landrum, SC. I hadn’t been in quite some time, and was looking forward to spending the morning exploring this historic covered bridge and Beaverdam Creek with the boys. The structure was built in 1909 by Charles Irwin Willis to replace a flat bridge that was washed out in 1908.
The bridge was restored in 1964, and after Pleasant Hill Road was rerouted in 1951, the bridge was eventually closed to vehicles in 1984. In 1990 Campbell’s Covered Bridge was once more restored, and after buying up several acres from adjoining holdings, owner Sylvia A. Pittman sold the now 15-acre parcel to the Greenville County Recreation District to be developed as a public historic site in 2008. The last remaining covered bridge in South Carolina, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
My last visit was in March of 2002, and the difference was noticeable. The gravel parking lot I remembered just next to the bridge was gone, replaced by a public lot closer to the road. A paved path leads to the bridge and picnic areas, and a 0.5 mile hike takes visitors on a tour of the area. The banks have been nicely landscaped, allowing easy access to the shallows at the base of the bridge. I was hardly surprised to learn that Beaverdam Creek has been popular for picnics on a hot day, a place for engagements and romantic strolls since the day the bridge was built, as we spent a couple of hours splashing in the sandy pools.
|From 2002: old parking lot visible|
35 feet long and 12 feet wide, the trusses lay on natural rock abutments on either end. As the rest of the bridge was built to fit, the resulting structure is actually not completely square. With a four-span Howe truss (commonly used in railroad bridges), Campbell’s features diagonal timbers and vertical iron rods.
The bridge is named after Lafayette Campbell, the owner of almost 200 acres in the area and the grist mill just downstream. In 1938 a new grist mill was built on the same site, this one operating until the 1950s. The foundation is still visible, as are the foundations of the Smith House, the home of Joseph Daniel Smith (who built the second grist mill). The home was transformed in 1992 by then-owner William Pittman, who added interesting bits of geology into the steps, walls and patios, and although the house burned in 2001, pieces still can be found in the public spaces in the park; in more than one spot the boys found marbles, shells and other oddities embedded into the various steps and retaining walls surrounding the bridge. The old springhouse still stands as well, cold water flowing out from underneath the steps.
Campbell’s Covered Bridge is an excellent spot to visit with kids on a hot summer day. Amenities include picnic tables, trash receptacles in the parking lot and informational placards, however there are no public restrooms or changing areas. Watch out for poison ivy (which we saw quite a bit of on the trail near the river), ticks and other biting insects, but don’t let it keep you from enjoying this historic site! We’ll be back soon, this time with a few shovels and pails to settle in for a longer playtime in the cool mountain creek.