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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

America's Iconic Covered Bridges Documented With As Built Records

Photo of Laser scanning technologies further preservation efforts of historic covered bridges. Jim Wacker, Forest ServiceLaser scanning technologies further preservation efforts of historic covered bridges. Jim Wacker, Forest ServiceSnapshot : Laser scanning technology provides details of historic covered timber bridges

Principal Investigators(s) :
Ross, Robert J. 
Research Location : FPL
Research Station : Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)
Year : 2012
Highlight ID : 25


Covered bridges are part of the fabric of American history and several hundred historic covered bridges still exist today. Although preservation is a high priority, the high cost of restoration, neglect, vandalism, and arson often take their toll. Many covered bridges are damaged and lost forever. One well-known bridge, featured in the film Bridges of Madison County, burned in 2003. Hurricane Irene destroyed a number of New England bridges in 2011.

To prevent these types of incidents from occurring and help preserve existing bridges, the National Park Service's Historic American Engineering Record is working to document these historic structures. To assist in this effort researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory, the national research lab of the U.S. Forest Service, explored and developed laser scanning technologies that provide structural "as built" records in an accurate, quick, and cost-effective manner.

The Historic American Engineering Record Level I documentation consists of measured and interpretive drawings, large-format photographs, and written historical reports. Newer technologies such as laser scanning can provide as built records at a faster rate and with greater accuracy than previous assessment techniques.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • City of Zumbrota, Minnesota
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • National Park Service (Department of Interior)
  • University of Minnesota Duluth

Program Areas