If you’re on the hunt for covered bridges, New Brunswick is a great place to visit. The province has 60 of them — and almost by accident, I stumbled upon the oldest one — the Nelson Hollow Covered Bridge — on my way to my hotel.
From Miramichi, New Brunswick, take Highway 8 southwest towards Fredericton. Once you’ve passed Doaktown, keep an eye out for Lyons Lane. There should be a covered bridge sign that points you in the right direction. Take Lyons Lane down to the covered bridge.
I’m sure glad I spotted that covered bridge roadsign on Route 8, and also happy that I decided to check it out. Nelson Hollow Bridge is just a short drive down a dirt road, and as of 2016, it’s almost lost in a tangle of overgrown brush.
There are a couple of really cool things about the Nelson Hollow Bridge. One, take a look at the roof. It’s different than most covered bridges you’ve ever seen — it’s a “cottage” roof (meaning it has four sides instead of two). Only one other bridge in New Brunswick is built this way.
A small sign on the bridge provides a history lesson. It was first built in 1870, rebuilt in 1899, and restored in 1970.
Also, notice the sign above the entrance. It warns “$20 fine for driving on this bridge faster than a walk.” I’ve read that this is based on a very old law, which was based on the belief that a fast-moving vehicle could create a “standing wave” vibration — which could cause the structure to collapse.
At first, I wasn’t completely sure if it would be a good idea to drive over the bridge — either faster or slower than a walk. So, I first crossed on foot…
… and admired the evening light streaming between the boards — which have fallen into disrepair.
I made my way down to the creek, to see the bridge from below. It looks a bit scary from this angle as well.
The far side of the bridge is even more overgrown. It’s tough to tell from this picture, but there’s also a steep hump to climb, right after you get back on solid ground.
I walked back to my car and decided to try driving across it. The bridge itself held firm, but getting up that hump was difficult — even with a 4-wheel-drive Jeep SUV.
Once I was on the other side, I found another surprise.
At some point, long ago, the Nelson Hollow Covered Bridge was replaced with a more modern, concrete structure — but the old wooden bridge actually out-lasted the newer one!
Concrete pillars still remain, but the “new” bridge is long gone.
I parked here for a few minutes and checked out the old bridge, the even older bridge…
… and the view of the Southwest Miramichi River. The covered bridge and the concrete bridge both crossed Betts Mill Brook, a stream that empties into the larger river.
You can’t cross the Miramichi River here, but I soon discovered another bridge that allows you to cross the river on foot. I’ll show it to you on the next page.
Here’s a look at the drive from Miramichi to Nelson Hollow Bridge:
The Bottom Line
It takes just a few minutes to detour off Route 8 to see the Nelson Hollow Bridge – and driving across it is a real adventure. If you’re in the area, check it out!