June 28, 29 & 30

Get ready for Riverfest on June 28-30, 2024! Susquehanna National Heritage Area (SNHA) and Rivertownes PA, USA have partnered to commemorate the Civil War burning of the world’s longest wooden covered bridge. It’s a weekend-long event in the river towns of Columbia, Marietta, and Wrightsville. Join us to celebrate the river’s place in American history and its role in building our future as a recreation destination!


In June 1863, Confederate forces marched into Pennsylvania and spread across the south-central counties, to raid, and sacking small towns. Columbia and Wrightsville joined together to protect Lancaster from the same fate. 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.


Pre-register for one of the special vehicle tours available during Riverfest 2024. Choose a tour of Columbia, Marietta, or Wrightsville on an old-fashioned trolley. Susquehanna NHA has partnered with Rivertowne Trolley, Columbia Historic Preservation Society, Historian Cindy Beaston, and Rivertownes PA USA to take you on a trip through history in these tours of our river towns! Explore the Susquehanna’s Civil War history aboard the Chief Uncas! Join Susquehanna National Heritage Area for a 1-hour Flames Across the Susquehanna boat tour, sharing the colorful story of the night that flames stretched across the Susquehanna as the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge burned on June 28, 1863. Learn about the history of the Underground Railroad and African American communities in the river towns with an Underground Railroad Bus Tour with the African American Historical Society of South Central PA!


Kick off the weekend with a chill hangout in Columbia River Park. Enjoy firepits along the Susquehanna River, live music with singer/songwriter Sarah Fiore, and kids’ activities from 5 PM-8PM. Lawn games and a kids bridge building challenge will keep you busy as the sun sets over the Susquehanna River. Tours on the Susquehanna River on the historic Chief Uncas and a special bus trip with the African American Historical Society of South Central Pennsylvania will help you dive into the history. There’s also tours at the First National Bank Museum and Susquehanna Riverlands State Park. Check out Columbia’s downtown too where businesses will be open late for Fourth Friday!


Bright and early on Saturday morning, come down to Columbia River Park to see the River Recreation Expo and to cheer on racers in the Bridge Burner Challenge! Nearly 100 racers will battle through the Bridge Burner Challenge Run & Paddle Race, a multi-sport race tracing the paths of the 1863 bridge burners. Racers will run up the Northwest River Trail to get the “dynamite” needed to burn the bridge. After they return to River Park, they’ll paddle that dynamite across the river to Wrightsville in their kayaks. Athletes are welcome to rise to the challenge and sign up for the Bridge Burner Challenge today. Racers receive a finisher medal and t-shirt to show off their win! Registration is available online. There’s also a kid Bucket Brigade at 10:15 AM, so bring the whole family. Meanwhile in the park, over 20 organizations and businesses that work along the Susquehanna River will be in Columbia River Park from 9 AM to 1 PM.

Throughout the day, events in Wrightsville, Columbia, and Marietta will showcase all our river towns have to offer and help you learn more about the exciting Civil War history! History buffs can join us for lectures at Columbia Crossing. Walking tours that showcase architecture and geology will be happening. Experts from the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster, Marietta Old Town Hall Museum, Rivertownes PA USA, Columbia Historic Preservation Society, and Susquehanna National Heritage Area have amazing stories to share about our region’s past. In the afternoon, walk through town in the Marietta Riverfest Pub Crawl where great bands and beers will be featured between 1 PM and 6 PM.


On a Sunday night, one hundred and sixty-one years ago, a flame lit coal oil and kerosene on the mile-long wooden covered bridge. It was the conclusion to a clash of Confederate and Union troops here along the Susquehanna River. Sunday tours will highlight Wrightsville’s place in history. The Friends of Lebanon Cemetery will talk about the local African Americans who defended the country and their freedom. Join them at the Lebanon Cemetery and Mount Pisgah Cemetery for walking tours, or at the Appell Center in downtown York for a special film screening of Glory at 1 PM. Historic Wrightsville, Incorporated will have the Burning Bridge Diorama and Museum open for tours. Support their organization by purchasing a ticket for a pork dinner or non-ticked pork sandwiches to enjoy at the riverfront on Sunday evening.

Our Ignite Finale will be on the lawn of John Wright Restaurant starting at 3 PM! Trolley tours will leave from the lawn all day long! Stone Biskit and Abigail’s Garden will fill the air with music. Join us for a break in the music at 7 PM when historian Dr. Leroy Hopkins will talk about the brave African Americans who defended the bridge that day in 1863. Then at 8:40 PM we kick off a fiery finale with a fire performance by the Teine Gaurdians. Followed by the story of the battle for the bridge as fires are sparked on the first three piers on the Susquehanna. It’s a spectacular site that brings the weekend to a close.

Visit riverfestpa.com to register for events and plan your Riverfest experience!

Susquehanna National Heritage Area and Rivertownes PA USA host this weekend long event. We are generously supported by our lead sponsors of Lancaster County Solid Waste Authority, Brightspeed, and John Wright Restaurant. This event feeds critical funds to heritage sites and organizations that bring this history to life. All the ticket proceeds go directly to the presenting organization. Thank you also to our other sponsors of CPRS Physical Therapy, Krouse Travel, Bender Dental Group, Rivertowne Trolley Co., Discover Columbia, Renewal by Andersen, Foresters of America, Sahd Metal Recycling, and Oak Street Health. These great sponsors have embraced our vision to leverage our shared history to build a vibrant future for our region. Donations to support heritage hosts can be made at: https://riverfestpa.com/donate/.

Get involved in Riverfest Weekend! Visit riverfestpa.com to sign up to be a part of Riverfest Weekend.

Become a Riverfest sponsor to support our mission to bolster our regional economy with heritage and recreation tourism.

Become a volunteer to help with race support, parking, visitor services, concert support and more.

Become Recreation Partner at the River Expo. Our goal is to showcase the Lower Susquehanna River region’s vast recreational opportunities in Lancaster & York Counties.


Bridge Burner Challenge

Run & Paddle Race along the Susquehanna!
There’s still time register online.


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.


Sahd’s Metal Recycling
Oak Street Health

Renewal by Andersen of Central Pennsylvania
Marietta American Legion

CPRS Physical Therapy
Krouse Travel
Bender Dental Group
Discover Columbia
Rivertowne Trolley Co.


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

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