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Poinsett Bridge — Travelers Rest, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Greenville County  |  Poinsett Bridge

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Poinsett Bridge

Located just north of Greenville, the Poinsett Bridge was built in 1820 and is believed to be the oldest surviving bridge in South Carolina. It was named for Charleston native and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett. Poinsett is also credited with bringing the poinsettia flower, which now bears his name, to the United States.

Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve

Ralph Mayer of Lexington, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The bridge was part of the original State Road, a toll road that ran from Charleston through Columbia to North Carolina. Constructed from locally quarried stone, the Poinsett Bridge was one of three stone bridges along the stretch of State Road referred to as the Saluda Mountain Road.

Poinsett Bridge Top

James Salters of Graniteville, 2016 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The bridge features stepped parapet sidewalls and is marked by a 15-foot Gothic arch which forms the passage for Little Gap Creek, a small tributary of the North Saluda River.

Poinsett Arch

Angie Pack of Greenville, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

At the time of the bridge’s design, Poinsett was the director of the South Carolina Board of Public Works. It is speculated that Robert Mills, architect of many South Carolina buildings as well as the Washington Monument, may have designed the bridge.

Poinsett Bridge Archway

Caleb Evans of Lexington, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

While the Poinsett Bridge is the most famous attraction at this location, there is quite a bit more to see. The bridge is located within a Heritage Trust Preserve which is a natural nature preserve, managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Heritage Preserves are noted to be a place where history, ecosystems and archaeological areas will be preserved in their entirety.

Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve

Charles Payne of Rock Hill, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The 120-acre preserve is home to many plants indigenous to South Carolina. By having the land they grow on in a protected preserve, we can ensure natural areas remain for these plants to flourish.

Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve

Charles Payne of Rock Hill, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Trails meander through the acreage and planned picnic spots and interpretive areas along the trail are currently planned by the Department of Natural Resources.

Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve

Charles Payne of Rock Hill, 2017 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

The Poinsett Bridge is listed in the National Register:

Constructed in 1820, the Poinsett Bridge is one of the oldest spans extant in South Carolina. Its impressive construction of wedge shaped rocks, erected without concrete, has pointed Gothic arches that are rare in the state today. The bridge was part of the State Road from Charleston through Columbia to North Carolina that was designed in 1817-1819 by Joel Poinsett, director of the South Carolina Board of Public Works. The bridge was named in his honor.

Poinsett also served as Secretary of War, Minister to Mexico, and first president of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, forerunner of the Smithsonian. It is believed that Robert Mills designed the bridge. Mills became State Architect and Engineer for the South Carolina Board of Public Works in 1820. A brush drawing by Mills of a bridge with Gothic arches and keystone identical to those of Poinsett Bridge lends credence to the belief that Mills designed the bridge.

More Pictures of the Poinsett Bridge

Poinsett Bridge Detail

Juan Torres of Columbia, 2019 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Frozen Waterway, Poinsett Bridge

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge Winter in Snow

Jo Anne Keasler of Greenville, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge SC

Walter Arnold of Hendersonville, NC, 2008 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge

Steve Rich of Aiken, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge Under the Arch

J.K. York of Asheville, NC, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge

Vicky Stroupe of Murrells Inlet, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge in Greenville

Blake Lewis of Greenwood, 2011 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge Greenville County

Charles Pittman of Duncan, 2018 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge

David Vanover of Boiling Springs © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge Traveler's Rest

Peter Krenn of Rock Hill, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge Marker

Peter Krenn of Rock Hill, 2014 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Reflections on the Poinsett Bridge

Contributor Ralph Mayer shares this about Poinsett Bridge: “This place means a lot to me as I was on the Aquatics staff and later the Aquatics and High Adventure Director of Camp Old Indian – about 300 yards up the road from Poinsett Bridge – for seven summers in the late 1960s through mid 70s. This bridge was almost like a part of camp for us. I spent quiet time reading on or by the bridge, jogged over it many days – all the while remembering that it was at one time THE road between Greenville, SC and Asheville, NC. I was jogging where horse and buggy used to travel. We’ve been known to wear out the bottoms of cut-off jeans sliding on the rocks below the bridge.”

Poinsett Bridge Top

Ralph Mayer of Lexington, 2013 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

Poinsett Bridge Info

Address: 580 Callahan Mountain Road, Travelers Rest, SC 29690
GPS Coordinates: 35.129250,-82.384375
Website: https://www.dnr.sc.gov/mlands/managedland?p_id=39

Poinsett Bridge Map

Please Share Your Thoughts!

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20 Comments about Poinsett Bridge

Sparrow says:
September 17th, 2019 at 10:18 am

Lovely photos of a lovely place!

Marianne Garnmeister says:
June 8th, 2016 at 7:38 pm

What a beautiful and serene spot. I plan to visit here again very soon.

Howard Levy says:
June 6th, 2016 at 8:15 pm

I believe this bridge is very near to Camp old Indian but not sure. I remember seeing such a structure when my son attended the camp in the late eighties

SCIWAY says:
December 28th, 2015 at 8:45 am

You can see it from your car! In fact, a road runs alongside the bridge, so you don’t even have to get out. However, the parking area is across the street from the bridge, and while it is not a long walk, I suppose it depends on where you are able to find a spot. It is worth viewing, however – just beautiful!

Jane Rogers Brown says:
December 26th, 2015 at 11:31 am

How much of a walk is it to the bridge, or can you see it from the car/parking area. One in my party is mobility impaired and cannot walk long distances.

SCIWAY says:
November 2nd, 2015 at 12:44 pm

According to this survey, the bridge was in use until the mid-1950s: http://nationalregister.sc.gov/SurveyReports/PoinsettBridgeSM.pdf

M Wood says:
November 2nd, 2015 at 11:18 am

Anyone know the last time that the bridge and road beyond was open to automobiles?

SCIWAY says:
October 14th, 2015 at 8:55 am

According to this survey report by the National Register, the bridge is 24 feet in height “from the water to the top of the parapets.” http://nationalregister.sc.gov/SurveyReports/PoinsettBridgeSM.pdf

Ed says:
October 13th, 2015 at 7:06 pm

What is the elevation at the Bridge?

Don says:
June 16th, 2015 at 7:42 am

Coming from TN, we visited this bridge over the weekend on a trip to the Greenville area. The beautiful stonework and the engineering involved was a sight to see. It is tough to imagine the hard work involved to build something like this at that time in history. Definitely worth a stop if traveling on nearby Hwy 25.

Shelley Green Robinson says:
April 2nd, 2015 at 6:04 am

Yes, there is a small unpaved parking area across the road now. They made improvements to the access to the bridge a couple of years ago.

Bradley Davis says:
February 4th, 2015 at 2:08 pm

One of my more poignant and serene memories I have from my youth….made many visits to the old Poinsett Bridge in my Boy Scout days when I was a camper at Camp Old Indian circa 1965 – 72. Beautiful spot.

SCIWAY says:
January 22nd, 2015 at 7:31 am

Yes, Martha, there is a parking area across the street from the bridge. Enjoy!

Martha Tarwater says:
January 21st, 2015 at 11:50 pm

Would like to visit again. Was here 15 years ago, but had to park in the road. Is there a parking place now?

Kathy says:
May 27th, 2013 at 8:12 pm

What a wonderful surprise; we totally enjoyed this beautiful, old piece of architecture. Amazing! They don’t build bridges like they used to!

[…] SciWay’s website on the bridge with lots of great photos, including one by our friend Walter A…. […]

Susan Brewer says:
August 13th, 2012 at 9:52 pm

My 2x-great grandparents, Pinkney and Martha Jane (Wilson) Burrell were from this area. His parents were laid to rest at Mt Pleasant Baptist Ch cemetery in Travelers Rest. They had a son named Poinsett (aka Piney), so I wonder if there is some significance in that. Is there a list somewhere that names those who built the bridge?

Ralph Mayer says:
March 27th, 2012 at 12:52 pm

This bridge is just down the road about 1/3 of a mile from Camp Old Indian, a Boy Scout camp where I was the Aquatics and High-Adventure director back in the 1970s. I have a few pictures where I was teaching a class on the bridge. You can see them at: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=rhm+poinsett&z=m

Jenny Gordon Ruff says:
September 16th, 2011 at 10:01 am

My great-great-great-great grandfather Samuel L. Gordon helped build this bridge — so awesome!

Ray says:
September 15th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I remember riding a school bus across the Poinsett Bridge in the early to mid 50s to attend Tigerville Elementary. It was one lane and someone had to wait to cross if another vehicle was approaching.


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