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4 Reasons Why You Should Visit Nebraska Bridge In Tionesta, PA

Visit Nebraska Bridge

In the far southwestern reaches of the Allegheny National Forest lies a bridge with no remarkable features. Yet, it has become a regional legend within the surrounding area. Intrigued?

Here’s why you should visit Nebraska Bridge: for a few weeks each year, the Nebraska Bridge becomes partially submerged in water. Occasionally, during exceptionally high rain or snowfall, it disappears entirely underwater!

The Bridge, located in Tionesta, Pennsylvania, is famous to locals and visitors alike. It even has an entry in Atlas Obscura. This article will cover why you should visit Nebraska Bridge, including its history and when it’s most likely to flood.

This post includes affiliate links but rest assured that we only recommend items we would use ourselves. And if you choose to make a purchase, we receive a small commission. No sponsorships, just the truth about our favorite finds.

What Causes The Nebraska Bridge To Flood?

Flooded Nebraska Bridge

You may be wondering why someone would build a bridge only for it to flood. It wasn’t a mistake by the engineers or some massive miscalculation. In fact, the Bridge has held up impressively over time owing to the ingenuity of the engineering back in the day.

To get to the heart of the answer, we have to explore a bit of Forest County history and go back to when the Bridge was built in 1933.

A Little History On The Nebraska Bridge

The Nebraska Bridge spans the Tionesta Creek and is about 4 miles east of Tionesta as the crow flies. When it was constructed in 1933, there was no dam between Tionesta Creek and the nearby Allegheny River to the west.

Around 1940, the Army Corps Of Engineers built a dam near the confluence of Tionesta Creek and the Allegheny River, about four and a half miles downstream of the Nebraska Bridge. 

The Tionesta Dam controls flooding along the banks of the Allegheny River and is responsible for the Bridge’s occasional submergence. And while the Tionesta Dam has saved millions, if not billions, of dollars in flood damage over the years, the Nebraska Bridge continues to take a beating due to its construction.

But luckily, the Nebraska Bridge is tougher than it looks!

Why The Nebraska Bridge Floods

Flooded Nebraska Bridge

If the dam was built to prevent flooding, why does the Nebraska Bridge go underwater? To understand this question, we need to know a little bit about which way the rivers flow.

From the Nebraska Bridge, the Tionesta Creek flows west toward the Allegheny River, and the Allegheny River then flows south toward Pittsburgh. 

Under normal conditions, water flows over the spillway at a controlled level. However, when heavy rains or snow melt increase the water level, the dam backfloods, and water levels rise rapidly behind the dam (toward the Nebraska Bridge).

If enough precipitation occurs, this backflooding raises the water level so high that the Bridge gets submerged.

Why You Should Visit Nebraska Bridge

Because it’s cool! But on a serious note, the Nebraska Bridge is famous in Forest County and the surrounding Cook Forest Area. When partially obscured by water, it is a remarkable sight.

Is it the only Bridge that has ever flooded? No. But it’s one of the only bridges that receives annual flooding and is still standing! The Nebraska Bridge is structurally sound despite annual flooding and debris impact from branches flowing downriver during high water levels.

This extraordinary Bridge is inspected regularly, and renovations were performed in 1999 and 2011 to ensure the Bridge remains safe to drive on. 

1. Local Legend

One of the main reasons you should visit Nebraska Bridge is that it’s a local legend. Residents of Forest County are well-versed in navigating the Nebraska Bridge area when it’s flooded and enjoy seeing it submerged. 

To many, this iconic Bridge is as famous as the Golden Gate!

2. Photography Opportunity

If you’re a photographer, this is a rare opportunity to witness a ‘natural disaster‘ without any actual damage being done. On a sunny day, photographing the flooded Nebraska Bridge with its reflection in the water makes for a breathtaking capture.

3. Intriguing Architecture

The Nebraska Bridge is 187 feet long and is submerged for days at a time throughout the year. It’s an architectural masterpiece, to say the least!

The Bridge is a Parker Thru Truss Bridge. It’s supported on a concrete abutment and has flared wing walls. There is a two-lane road that goes through the Bridge. 

While there’s nothing too remarkable about the Bridge, the fact that this architectural design has held up to time and the wrath of Mother Nature is astonishing and certainly something to see!

4. Pet-Friendly Destination

If you’re looking for a fun place to take your pup, the Nebraska Bridge is a pet-friendly area with plenty of grass and wooded areas for your canine companion to explore.

The road crossing the Bridge is relatively quiet, and you can easily walk down the Bridge safely to the other side (as long as it’s not flooded!). The boat launch ramp is great for letting your dog cool off on hot summer days.

In the winter, the Bridge becomes Christmas-card-worthy when covered in snow, and it’s the perfect opportunity to snap a photo with your dog! 

If you decide to bring your dog to the Bridge in the winter, check out our guide on hiking with dogs in winter to ensure your canine companion is happy and warm!

2 Different Ways To Visit Nebraska Bridge

Visit Nebraska Bridge

If you’d like to see the Nebraska Bridge, there are a few ways to experience it, from simply driving up and parking to take a look or putting in a kayak to witness it up close.

1. By Car

Getting to Nebraska Bridge by car is easy, and there is plenty of parking there. When it’s flooded, use extreme caution, as the parking lot may be flooded depending on the amount of rain/snow.

The Nebraska Bridge is located on Nebraska Road (sometimes called Golinza Road). To reach the southern parking area:

  • GPS: N41.4691, W79.3833
  • Directions From Leeper: Take 36N for 6.5 miles. At the County Line Market, turn right onto Nebraska Road. Follow for 3.3 miles to the parking area.
  • Google Maps: Type in “Nebraska Acess Area Parking Lot”

To reach the northern parking area:

  • GPS: N41.4730, W79.3823
  • Directions From Tionesta/Route 36: Take German Hill Road and follow for approximately 4 miles. At the intersection, turn right onto Nebraska Road. Follow for 2.5 miles to the parking area.
  • Google Maps: Type in “Nebraska Run Access Area”

2. By Boat/Kayak/Canoe

Even when not flooded, the water beneath the Bridge is typically only a foot or two below the Bridge. This makes it nearly impossible to go beneath the Bridge in a kayak or canoe from upriver, let alone a boat. 

However, you can still put a small boat, kayak, or canoe into the water and paddle to the Bridge. Or, if the Bridge is flooded, you can pass right through some of the trusses to the other side for a memorable experience!

If this sounds like a blast but you don’t have a kayak or canoe, check out REI’s selection of Kayaks for your next adventure!

There is a boat launch on the Bridge’s southern side, right across from the parking lot. Again, use caution when the Bridge is flooded. That means the boat launch is most likely flooded, if not the entire parking lot. There is another boat ramp in Kellettville to the Northwest.

The Best Time Of Year To See The Flooded Nebraska Bridge

Nebraska Bridge

The Nebraska Bridge is only under the water for a few days to weeks per year, so if you live far from it, it’s essential to time your visit correctly.

Spring

Early Spring is one of the best times to see the Nebraska Bridge underwater. For at least a few days each Spring, it’s almost guaranteed that the Bridge will be partially submerged.

In the Spring, the snowmelt from around the area feeds into the Tionesta Creek. It flows down to the Nebraska Bridge before hitting the Tionesta Dam. As the dam back floods, the Bridge goes under.

Winter

Forest County may not see as much snow as Buffalo, but it gets its fair share of snow every year, averaging 30 to 40 inches. 

As the temperatures rise, the snowmelt and the melting ice on the surface of the creek combine to form a spectacular show. Huge chunks of ice build along the Bridge’s eastern side as the water level rises, taking the ice chunks with it. 

It’s truly a sight to see and even more thrilling to experience by kayak or canoe. Just make sure to be safe and mindful of the changing water levels.

The Day After Heavy Rainfall

If there’s a heavy thunderstorm coming through, don’t go to the Bridge the same day expecting it to be flooded. It takes about a day for the increased precipitation levels to be reflected at the Bridge.

Instead, head there the next day to see if it rained enough to send the Bridge underwater.

When The Internet Says So

Believe it or not, several Facebook pages are dedicated solely to reporting whether or not the Nebraska Bridge is open. The most prominent group, Is The Nebraska Bridge Open, typically posts about the Bridge’s water level daily.

Join one of these groups to get a day-by-day update on the water levels around the Bridge. These groups can be tremendously helpful if you want to plan a trip to see the Bridge underwater.

When The Bridge Is Least Likely To Flood

It’s a rare event if the Nebraska Bridge goes underwater in the summer. Summers are usually pretty dry, with only occasional thunderstorms. You’re not likely to catch the Bridge underwater in this season. 

Fall can occasionally bring enough rain to send the Bridge underwater. Still, it doesn’t happen as often as in the Spring.

Other Things To Do At The Nebraska Bridge

Whether you’re a seasoned climber, an avid hiker, or just looking for a serene getaway, the area surrounding the iconic Nebraska Bridge has something special for everyone. And yes, your furry companions are more than welcome to join in on the fun!

Hiking the Scenic Trails

Minster Creek Overlook

First up on our list of must-dos is hitting the trails around the area. While there are no trails that meander directly around the Nebraska Bridge, there are plenty just a short drive down the road.

You can grab a Pennsylvania Hiking Guide to help you find the perfect nearby trail!

To the Northeast stretches the vast wilderness of the Allegheny National Forest. I highly recommend checking out Minster Creek, just a half-hour drive northeast of the Bridge.

Or, head down to Tionesta Lake and check out the Tionesta Summit or Creekside Trails. You can also view the Tionesta Dam here.

Climbing Adventures

For those with a penchant for scaling heights, the area around Nebraska Bridge won’t disappoint. While there aren’t any climbing routes directly on the Bridge (safety first, folks!), nearby rock formations offer climbers an exhilarating challenge. 

To the southeast are Beartown Rocks and Indian Rocks. Beartown Rocks has 28 boulder problems, but many routes are waiting to be discovered in this massive boulder field. Indian Rocks has a mix of sport and trad.

To the Northwest, there is a group of rocks known as ‘The Northwest,’ which contains a mix of sport, trad, and bouldering problems. And finally, to the Northeast, you have Rim Rock. This area is strictly bouldering and offers some stunning views of the Kinzua Valley from the Rim Rock overlook.

Picnicking by the River

After a day filled with adventure, what could be better than unwinding by the river with a picnic? 

The area around the Nebraska Bridge isn’t the best for picnicking, especially if it’s flooded! However, the nearby Tionesta Rec Area is just down the road and offers some fantastic views of the Allegheny River.

Pack your favorite snacks, maybe some treats for your furry friend, and enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature. 

Photography and Bird Watching

Photographing the Nebraska Bridge while it’s flooded will give you the memory of a lifetime. These remarkable events only happen a few times a year, so if you capture it on camera, it’s even more impressive.

The area also offers terrific opportunities for drone flying to get a bird’s eye view of the Bridge or even fly your drone through the flooded structure for a unique perspective.

Bird watchers, keep your binoculars handy! The region is known for its variety of bird species, offering a delightful spectacle for avian enthusiasts.

Fishing

Fishing is a favorite pastime at the Nebraska Bridge. There are plenty of fish that call the Tionesta Creek home:

  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Muske
  • Northern Pike
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Channel Catfish
  • Largemouth Bass

Fishing near the Nebraska Bridge when it’s flooded requires caution due to the changing water levels, so proceed with caution.

Star Gazing

As the sun sets and the stars begin to twinkle, the adventure doesn’t have to end. The remote location away from city lights makes the Nebraska Bridge a fantastic spot for stargazing

Lay back and gaze up at the vast cosmos, maybe even spotting a shooting star or two. It’s the perfect, tranquil end to an action-packed day.

Wrapping Up Our Nebraska Bridge Adventure

The Nebraska Bridge is a sight when partially or fully submerged underwater. This iconic and historical Bridge has stood the test of time and Mother Nature and come out on top! 

At least for most of the year…

The Nebraska Bridge is undoubtedly the most famous Bridge in the state of Pennsylvania. The best time to see the Nebraska Bridge flooded is Spring and Winter, but it will occasionally flood in the fall.

Have you seen the Nebraska Bridge while it’s flooded? Do you have any tips or tricks to see it underwater? Let us know in the comments below!

If you’re looking for more things to do in the area, check out our article on 32 things to do near Cook Forest!

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2 comments

  1. Ok you know this is my favorite article thus far!!!! Haha I love the area! I love going to Nebraska bridge flooded or not. You can access many areas from Nebraska road. It’s a connector.

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