Visiting the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, MA
Located just off the historic and very scenic Mohawk Trail in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts is a very special landmark worth visiting. Known as the Bridge of Flowers, this one-of-a-kind flowering bridge has been quietly greeting visitors for almost 100 years.
Originally constructed in 1908 as a trolley bridge linking Buckland and Shelburne on both sides of the Deerfield River, the bridge became somewhat antiquated with the invention of the automobile in the early 20th century. Used to transport both goods and passengers, the Shelburne Falls & Colrain Street Railway Company soon fell into bankruptcy as cars and trucks replaced the trolley. By 1928 the 400-foot concrete span was mostly abandoned and overgrown with weeds.
With the seldom-used bridge quickly becoming an eyesore the community had a problem with what to do with the structure. With a wider steel bridge nearby, foot traffic ceased on the old concrete bridge and the cost to dismantle the bridge was deemed too expensive. Also, the bridge carried a water main to the Buckland side of the river, which only compounded the issue.
Thankfully, local resident Antoinette Burnham came up with a great idea. Her vision was to transform the weed-infested bridge into a flowering path for people to enjoy. The Shelburne Falls Fire District would purchase the bridge for the tidy sum of $1,250 and the Shelburne Fall's Women’s Club sponsored the beautification project. They had eighty loads of soil and fertilizer placed on the bridge all with the help of donated labor. The community rallied around the project volunteering their time and raising the funds necessary to complete the project, which included erecting fencing on the bridge and purchasing and planting the shrubs and flowers.
Today, the Bridge of Flowers draws visitors from all over the world. It is the only bridge of its kind in the world and the charming communities of Buckland and Shelburne offer a nice artistic touch to compliment the flowering bridge.
In bloom from early spring through late fall there are over five hundred different varieties of perennials and annuals planted on the bridge. Local volunteers under the direction of the head gardener work diligently to ensure that there is a continuous bloom throughout the three seasons.
Were you familiar with the Bridge of Flowers prior to coming across this article?
Both sides of the bridge have sitting areas and the Shelburne side has a beautiful garden pathway, a rock fountain, and a new River Bench by local Artist John Sendelbach. From the center of the bridge you have a wonderful view to the north of the Deerfield River and the rolling hills of the Berkshires. To the south you view the steel bridge that helped to seal the fate of the Bridge of Flowers. It’s a quiet and peaceful area and garden enthusiasts will appreciate the incredible variety of plants and shrubs that adorn the bridge.
Located in a prime area for viewing the autumn foliage, the Bridge of Flowers makes a nice pit stop on the Mohawk Trail for those driving the back roads of the Berkshires.
Shelburne and Buckland are very small communities with an assortment of locally owned B&B’s, restaurants, art galleries, craft shops, and antique shops. On the Buckland side of the river there is also the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum where you can ride one of the restored original trollies (No. 10) that once traversed the Bridge of Flowers. Just to the south of the bridge on the Deerfield River below the dam is the section known as the Glacial Potholes. The fifty odd holes range in size from just a few inches to almost forty feet and were formed millions of years ago as glaciers retreated through this area. The “potholes” form nice swimming holes during the summer and draw locals looking to cool off.
Be Sure to Stop and Smell the Flowers!
You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry, don't worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.— Walter Hagen
We're Right There!
Care to spend a few hours volunteering while visiting the Bridge of Flowers? The Bridge Blossom Brigade would appreciate the help. They work for two hours on Friday mornings and two hours on Wednesday evenings. Their schedule is as follows:
- April, 10 -12 noon
- May, 9 -11am
- June-July-August, 8 -10am
- September-October, 9 -11am
- 5-7pm throughout the whole season
There are a number of annual events that take place in the area. A sampling is listed here:
- Annual Plant Sale - May
- Maple Sugaring - March
- Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K Road Race – August
- Mohawk Trail Concerts Summer Festival – July
- Iron Bridge Dinner – August
- Shelburne Falls Military Band Concerts – June-August
- Shelburne Falls Art Walk – May, July, September, November
- CiderDays – November
Questions? Ask the Master Gardener.
From Interstate 91 (N or S) take exit 26 for Greenfield. Off the exit follow the rotary around and take Route 2 West. This will put you on the Mohawk Trail. Follow for approximately 8 miles and take a left onto South Maple Street and another left onto Bridge Street. This will take you right into the center of Shelburne and the Bridge of Flowers.
Hollywood in Shelburne Falls
For you movie aficionados out there did you know that Shelburne Falls has actually hosted three films over the past few years? Labor Day starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, The Judge starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, and the thriller Then There Was were all filmed in the area. Pretty impressive resume for such a small community located in a very rural area.
No matter the season, be it spring, summer or fall, the Bridge of Flowers will be in bloom waiting to greet visitors. If you find yourself in western Massachusetts be sure to stop by this one of kind historic landmark that is surely the pride of Shelburne Falls.
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© 2015 Bill De Giulio