Head to the Susquehanna for Riverfest on June 23-25, 2023! Susquehanna National Heritage Area (NHA) and Rivertownes PA, USA have partnered to commemorate the 160th Anniversary of the Civil War burning of the world’s longest covered bridge. 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. 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.
To commemorate the 160th anniversary of the Civil War burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge,
Riverfest will offer special programming and feature unique medal designs and souvenirs that honor our past, preserve our history, and uphold tradition. Learn the colorful story of the night that flames stretched across the Susquehanna in Burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, June 28, 1863, a children’s coloring book with pictures by Marietta artist, David Haneman. As a traditional tribute to the brave and bold actions of the burning of the bridge during the Civil War, 160 commemorative coin key chains will be available to celebrate the 160th anniversary!
Riverfest is a weekend-long celebration of our river towns’ heritage and recreation. Susquehanna NHA, Rivertownes PA USA, and our heritage partners have created a range of experiences that tell the amazing stories of our past. Learn about the burning of the bridge story through several different heritage walks, talks, and trolley tours! Thanks to Columbia Historic Preservation Society, Historic Wrightsville Incorporated, Cultural Alliance of York County, and Friends of Mount Bethel Cemetery.
Check out all the recreational trails that meander through our historic industrial landscape at the River Expo. Conquer the Bridge Burner Challenge Run & Paddle Race, a multi-sport race tracing the paths of the 1863 bridge burners. Looking to discover on your own? Grab a self-guided tour or digital adventure from Columbia Crossing. There are over 100 miles of trails, 10 scenic overlooks, and over 2 dozen heritage sites in the Susquehanna National Heritage Area.
Thanks especially to our sponsors that believe in our mission to bolster our regional economy with heritage and recreation tourism.
INFERNO SPONSORS! Thrivent – Robert Kedney Financial Advisor, Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority & John Wright Restaurant
BLAZE SPONSORS! CPRS Physical Therapy, Discover Columbia
FLAME SPONSORS! Isaac’s Restaurants, Gumption Design Check out the full event schedule below
The deck will be available, but if the weather looks like it will hold, the event will be on the lawn area. ( bring your lawn chairs)
Some of the lectures will now take place at Columbia Crossing River Trails Center. This includes the:
Marietta Walking Tour on Saturday NOW AT COLUMBIA CROSSING
Jim McClure’s talk on the bridges that spanned the river on Sunday at 5 pm: NOW AT COLUMBIA CROSSING
Susquehanna Travelers Concert on Sunday at at 6 PM NOW AT COLUMBIA CROSING on deck or lawn (depending on weather conditions)
Narrative of the burning of the bridge on Sunday at 7 PM NOW AT COLUMBIA CROSSING
Fire Performance at 8:15 PM NOW AT COLUMBIA CROSSING
The food trucks that were expected to be in Wrightsville on Sunday will also be moved to Columbia Crossing River Trails Center.
The Paddle the Battle will go on as scheduled unless severe weather cause us to cancel the day of.
This DOES NOT effect the Burning of the Bridge Diorama, the planned Sunday afternoon Wrightsville Van Tours of the Battle of Wrightsville or Cindy Beastons Wrightsville Walk.
June 23, 24, and 25 at 10 AM, 12 PM, and 2 PM at the Zimmerman Center for Heritage
1706 Long Level Road, Wrightsville. Let SNHA staff guide you on a tour of the Susquehanna! Enjoy special themed tours aboard the historic Chief Uncas, an electric-powered vessel built for Adolphus Busch in 1912! Pre-Register at www.SusqNHA.org/events
June 24 at 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, and 1 PM & June 25 at 10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 1 PM, 2 PM, 3 PM, and 4 PM
Explore our history on a trolley tour during Riverfest! The trolly tour will take you around Columbia. Learn about the important Underground Railroad heritage of the town and how the residents and Union home guard prepared to defend the bridge. Tours are $7 and start at Columbia Crossing River Trails Center. Trolly tours last about 45 minutes. Pre-Register at www.SusqNHA.org/events
June 23rd at 5, 6, and 7:30 PM, June 24th at 4 and 5 PM, June 25th at 3 PM at Columbia Crossing River Trails Center.
41 Walnut Street, Columbia. Learn how roads, rivers, and rails led to the architectural gem that is Historic Columbia! Join volunteers from the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County on a 1-hour walk through Columbia’s past! These are 1-hour tours with volunteers with backgrounds in architectural design and historic preservation. The tours will be led at a moderate or greater pace and include an uphill walk from Columbia River Park into town. Please meet your guide at Columbia Crossing 10 minutes before your tour begins. The tours will end at the intersection of 3rd and Locust Streets in downtown Columbia. Tickets at $10. Pre-Register at www.SusqNHA.org/events
Tour with Rivertownes PA USA, June 24 & 25 at 1 PM at Musselman Vesta Iron Furnace Center
26 Furnace Road, Marietta. Travel back in time when the air was filled with soot and smoke, the noise from the eight furnaces was heard 24 hours a day and the laborers worked 12-hour shifts to produce the iron for the rapidly growing American Industrial Revolution. With the invention of the “hot-blast,” the eight anthracite-fueled furnaces lined the shores of the Susquehanna between Marietta, Wrightsville, and Columbia. The walking tour will include the Musselman Vesta Furnace complex, the ruins of the Marietta #1 and Donegal furnaces, and the Northwest River Trail for the Henry Clay Furnace. The walk will be led by Lenny Droege, the director of the Musselman Vesta Iron Furnace Center, or David Haneman, Rivertownes PA USA president. The walk will take place on the paved Northwest River Trail, except for a short walk between the Marietta #1 and Donegal Furnaces on a groomed walking trail. Pre-Register at www.SusqNHA.org/events.
Maple Street, Wrightsville. Spend some time exploring a Civil War-era encampment. This living history activity will engage participants in living soldier life, cooking, artillery, civilian life, and so much more. There will be activities throughout the day for the whole family.
Open June 24, 10 AM – 3 PM, and June 25, 1 PM – 3 PM
309 Locust Street, Wrightsville. Discover more about Wrightsville Borough’s history in the historic house museum. Exhibits showcasing life during the Civil War and a special artillery exhibit from Ron Bupp will be on display. Ron Bupp will talk about his collection on Saturday from 1 PM – 3 PM. In the garden, historian Jim McClure will be available for talks on Saturday from 10 AM – 2 PM. Donations are appreciated.
First National Bank Museum: Tours June 24 and 25, 11 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM, and 5 PM
170 Locust Street, Columbia. Come visit one of Columbia’s Oldest Historic Sites and enjoy a guided tour of the First National Bank Museum, one of the few banks still preserved in its original setting. Special Riverfest tour price of $8.00 per person. Pre-Register at www.SusqNHA.org/events or call the museum directly at 717-684-8864.
5 pm in Downtown Columbia
Fourth Friday’s Kickoff to Riverfest starts at 5 pm on Friday, June 23rd. The band, Heroes 4 Ransom will be playing in front of the mural on Front St beside Coffee & Cream. There will also be two food trucks to enjoy, shopping, and food specials at the local restaurants and Columbia Market House. Check out www.ColumbiaMerchants.com and www.DiscoverColumbia.com for updates!
Open 12 PM – 3 PM
4 Donegal Place, Marietta. Have a tour of the only intact furnace building from the Chickies Historic Iron Furnace Complex. The Iron Furnace Industry was thriving along the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Marietta during the Civil War. One of the bridge burners was a manager of these iron furnaces.
6 PM at Columbia River Park
41 Walnut Street, Columbia. The lecture will relate the events, emotions, and actions that the residents of Marietta took when the Confederate Army approached the rivertown of Wrightsville during the Civil War. What took place before and after the burning of the covered bridge that spanned the Susquehanna River between Wrightsville and Columbia? The lecture will be led by local historian, James Landis. James has written a biographical account for Lancaster History taken from newspaper articles regarding the actions that the citizens of Marietta took. $5. Preregister at www.SusqNHA.org/events.
5 PM-8 PM at Coffee and Cream
101 Front Street, Columbia. Kick off the weekend with some music, ice cream, and a great view!
9 AM – 11 AM at Columbia River Park
41 Walnut Street, Columbia. A fun multi-sport race commemorating the burning of the world’s longest covered bridge in 1863. Run the path of the bridge burners to collect “dynamite” then paddle it across the river! The race starts at 9 AM sharp! Spectators can watch the paddle section from Columbia River Park. Register at www.RiverfestPA.com
9 AM – 12 PM at Columbia River Park
41 Walnut Street, Columbia. Meet outfitters and learn about river history and health at the River Expo. The expo is planned in conjunction with the Bridge Burner Challenge. Over twenty outfitters, organizations, and river businesses will be onsite.
10:15 AM – 11 AM at Columbia River Park
41 Walnut Street, Columbia. Rush to save Wrightsville! Register on-site to participate in one of two ‘bucket’ brigade races inspired by Mary Rewalt’s story. Kids ages 5-7 can participate in a “cup brigade” race, and kids 8+ can participate in a “bucket brigade” race. Kacy Hartmann, Miss Gettysburg 2023, will give out prizes after the race!
10 AM, 11 AM, 12 PM, 1 PM, & 2 PM
124 Hellam Street, Wrightsville. Learn about the Confederate soldiers who fought under General John B. Gordon as they tried to cross the last major obstacle between them and their campaign through Pennsylvania: the Susquehanna River. Tours begin on the hour and pre-registration is required due to limited space in the diorama. Tours are free, but donations are appreciated. Preregister at www.SusqNHA.org/events.
10 AM at Wrightsville Historical Museum, 309 Locust St. Wrightsville
York County and the Susquehanna River region’s shared Civil War history is not simply a matter of learning about past events through books, videos, and other media. It’s also about exploring the actual ground, buildings, and sites that the Civil War touched. Tramping York County’s 900+ square miles yields a greater appreciation for what happened here. This is the story about unsung and little-known Civil War sites that might provide ideas about places to visit to better understand the war’s massive impact on York County and its people. Free.
12 PM at Columbia Crossing
41 Walnut Street, Columbia. Learn how Colonel Frick came in and took control of the defenses of both Rivertowns. If it wasn’t for him, Gordon would have waltzed across the bridge and taken everything he wanted. Cindy is a Columbia native, Civil War historian, and founder of the General Welsh Post 118. She is writing a book about Civil War soldiers from Columbia. $5 for the lecture, or $12 for both of Cindy’s lectures and her walking tours! Preregister at www.SusqNHA.org/events
1 PM – 6 PM Front Street in Marietta between River Trail Brewing and McCleary’s Pub
The street will be closed to traffic for visitors to enjoy artisan crafters, food trucks, local favorites, and live music. The event will feature 2 stages and 3 bands, Ghost Light Radio Show, Fierce, and Bobby Gentilo.
2 PM at McCleary’s Public House
130 W Front Street, Marietta. Join local historian James Landis on a tour through Marietta. Hear about ferries, historic homes, and more! Come learn how Marietta grew from a small lumber town to a major producer of iron for the American Industrial Revolution. The tour is $10. Preregister at www.SusqNHA.org/events
2:30 PM at Columbia Crossing
41 Walnut Street, Columbia. Join us at Columbia Crossing River Trails Center for a lecture from Cindy Beaston on Wrightsville after the burning of the bridge and the Confederate movements that led to the Battle of Gettysburg. Cindy is a Columbia native, Civil War historian, and founder of the General Welsh Post 118. She is currently writing a book about Civil War soldiers from Columbia. $5 for the lecture, or $12 for both of Cindy’s lectures and her walking tours! Preregister at www.SusqNHA.org/events
1:30 PM, 2:45 PM, and 4 PM at Columbia Crossing
441 Walnut Street, Columbia. Enjoy a leisurely walk through Columbia River ark and learn about all six bridges that have crossed the Susquehanna River between Columbia and Wrightsville. Have an up-close look at the historic piers that held the wooden covered bridge that was burned in the Civil War.
5 PM at Columbia Crossing
41 Walnut Street, Columbia. Join local historian Cindy Beaston on a two-part walk through the sites of the battle on both sides of the Susquehanna. See what is left of the burnt bridge and where Gordon stood to map out his attack. Bring your walking shoes and a water bottle. $5 for the two-part walking tour (Columbia on Saturday, Wrightsville on Sunday), or $12 for both of Cindy’s lectures and her walking tours! Preregister at www.SusqNHA.org/events
Sunday, June 25 at The Marietta Community House, 264 W Market St.
Garden Tour 11am – 4pm Rain or Shine, BBQ Dinner 11am – 2pm.
Enjoy eight Beautiful Gardens and related lectures. The proceeds benefit the Marietta Community House.
Advance purchase $12. Day of admission $15. Pork BBQ Dinner $10.
Call 717-994-6661 to reserve your tickets.
12 PM, 1 PM, & 2 PM, Meet at the Wrightsville Lime Kilns
362-388 North Front Street, Wrightsville (Across from John Wright Restaurant). Enjoy a van tour of Wrightsville and learn about the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania and the battle for Wrightsville. Participants will travel by bus throughout the town as they learn about the events that led to the Burning of The Bridge on June 28, 1863. Tour actors portraying notable characters will tell Wrightsville’s Civil War stories at the locations where history was made. Pre-registration is required! $20 for adults, $10 for youth under 18. Preregister at www.SusqNHA.org/events
1:30 PM, 2:45 PM, and 4 PM at Wrightsville Commons Park
Walnut Street, Wrightsville (near John Wright Restaurant). Susquehanna NHA and Shank’s Mare Outfitters have teamed up for this fun on-water experience. Get on the water at John Wright Restaurant and paddle out to the historic bridge piers. Learn about the battle for the bridge and bridge burners’ stories up close! Three tour times are available: 1:30 PM, 2:45 PM, and 4 PM. A great, short trip for first-time, novice paddlers, and history buffs! Sign up today! $20 per person. Participants must be 12 years or older. Those ages 12 – 17 must be on the water with a parent/guardian. All participants will need to sign a waiver before going on the tour. Preregister at www.SusqNHA.org/events
2 PM at Mt. Bethel Cemetery
700 Locust Street, Columbia. Bridge Burners. Who Were They? Meet the five men that lit the fuse in a walking tour of Mount Bethel Cemetery. Learn about their lives and why they were chosen for such a dangerous and important job. The tour is $5 per person. Online pre-registration is available. Cash only on the day of the tour. Preregister at www.SusqNHA.org/events
234 N Front Street, Wrightsville. York County Historian Jim McClure will present a history lecture to kick off the Riverfest Finale at John Wright Restaurant.
234 N Front Street, Wrightsville. Bring a lawn chair or blanket to the lawn at John Wright Restaurant! The Susquehanna Travelers will be performing.
234 N Front Street, Wrightsville. In commemoration of the brave acts of June 28, 1863, three historic bridge piers will be lit ablaze. As the fires are lit, Kacy Hartmann, Miss Gettysburg 2023, will share the story of the burning of the bridge. The Susquehanna Travelers will play until 9 PM.
The Teine Guardians will light up the night with a fire performance
See you at the Bridge! #RiverfestPA