Susquehanna National Heritage Area (NHA) and Rivertownes PA, USA partnered to commemorate the 160th Anniversary of the Civil War burning of the world’s longest covered bridge from June 23 – 25, 2023.

In June 1863, Confederate forces marched into Pennsylvania and spread across south-central counties, raiding and sacking small towns. Columbia and Wrightsville joined together to protect Lancaster from the same fate, as Marietta prepared for the possibility of the Southern Army making it to the eastern banks of the Susquehanna. After a short battle, outnumbered Union troops and local volunteers set the wooden covered bridge that crossed the Susquehanna River ablaze. This act stopped the Confederates cold. They retreated west to a location in Adams County and, just two days later, that Army battled Union forces in the Battle of Gettysburg.

Riverfest is a weekend-long celebration of our river towns’ heritage and recreation. To commemorate the 160th anniversary of the Civil War burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, Riverfest offered special programming/heritage tours and featured unique race medal designs and souvenirs that honor our past, preserve our history, and uphold tradition. A range of experiences that tell the harrowing stories of our past through several different heritage walks, talks, and trolley tours were available throughout the weekend.

Riverfest weekend attendees got a chance to check out all the recreational trails that meander through our historic industrial landscape at the River Expo. Some even conquered the Bridge Burner Challenge Run & Paddle Race, a multi-sport race tracing the paths of the 1863 bridge burners.

Those looking to discover their own adventures utilized several self-guided tour or digital adventure options from SNHA at Columbia Crossing River Trails Center. There are over 100 miles of trails, 50+ nature preserves, 10 scenic overlooks, and over 2 dozen heritage sites in the Susquehanna National Heritage Area to explore!

Bridge Burner Challenge

Run & Paddle Race along the Susquehanna!
Columbia, PA


Snapshot of Riverfest Weekend June 23-25, 2023:
1 weekend: 3 days; Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
2 Counties: Lancaster County and York County
3 River Towns: Columbia, Marietta, and Wrightsville
7 Event Sponsors
10 Volunteers + SNHA staff
636 Inside Visitors to Columbia Crossing River Trails Center
26 Recreation Partners
81 Bridge Burner Challenge Racers
9 Heritage Partners
415 Tickets Sold
$3,295 raised for local Organizations & Museums
36 Zip Codes recorded across four states: PA, MD, DE, & TX

We are especially thankful to our sponsors, partners, volunteers, and local communities that believe in our mission to bolster our regional economy with heritage and recreation tourism.





Interested in Sponsoring Riverfest & Bridge Burner Challenge? Contact hbyers@susqnha.org for details!

Interested in becoming a Riverfest Heritage Partner? Contact avayansky@susqnha.org for details!