These days, Randolph is a commercial center for smaller, rural farming communities in the vicinity. The village area is registered as a National Historic District. In 1921, the town was even the setting for a silent movie called The Offenders, which included some of the locals as extras.
The Gifford Covered Bridge, also called the C.K. Smith Covered Bridge, was first built as a covered bridge in 1904. However, the bridge is thought to have originated as an open bridge in the 1880s.
The single-lane bridge features a 47 foot span across the Second Branch of the White River. The King post truss design used in its construction is unique, prompting officials to include it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. The builder is unknown.
Gifford Bridge was reinforced with steel in 1955, and extensive repairs were made in 2001 to prevent flood waters from reaching the deck. In 2011, it was refurbished once more under the Vermont Historical Bridge Program, and given its current coat of vivid red paint.
The bridge lies east-west across the White River. A large barn, farmhouse, and assorted farm buildings sit on the hill west of the bridge, whereas a forested hill serves as the backdrop on the east side.
Unlike so many covered bridges of modern day, the Gifford Covered Bridge is not obstructed by telephone poles, electric wires, or trees. Thus, its unimpeded appearance, combined with an excellent location and revitalized condition, makes this bridge especially photogenic.
BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH
The best time to photograph the bridge is prior to sunset in autumn and winter, or after sunrise in spring and summer. Note that the forested hill to the east blocks the rising sun, thus delaying sunlight from reaching the side of the bridge until it clears the hill. In my opinion, the most photogenic times of the year for the bridge are after fresh snowfall in winter, and at the peak of foliage color in autumn.
GETTING TO GIFFORD BRIDGE
The town of Gifford is located in Orange County, some 30 miles south of Montpelier along Route 89. From I-89, take Exit 4 onto VT-66 heading toward Randolph. Drive approximately 5.5 miles on VT-66 before turning right onto VT-14 S. After two miles, turn left on Hyde Road. The bridge will become visible immediately after the turn.
Note that when using a Global Positioning System (GPS), you may need to select the town of “East Randolph” rather than Randolph in order to locate Hyde Road.
The bridge may be situated in a rural community but it remains an active thoroughfare. Be respectful of the locals by moving your tripod and camera gear off the bridge and road for passing traffic.