India’s Incredible Tree Root Bridges

Like something out of a fairytale, these bridges in the state of Meghalaya, India sprout out of the hillside, a tangled mess of tree roots both beautiful and sturdy. A photo essay by talented photographer Amos Chapple captures the tree root bridges, which can be a decade or more in the making. The process starts with a bamboo or palm trunk frame, over which rubber tree roots are trained to grow and rooted on the opposite side.

Because of the heavy rainfall in the region (13 times that of Seattle!), wooden bridges would quickly fall prey to elements, but the incredible root bridges become even stronger over the years, while the wood skeleton rots away underneath.

Meghalaya, India, the Wettest Place on Earth | Thought & Sight Meghalaya, India, the Wettest Place on Earth | Thought & Sight Meghalaya, India, the Wettest Place on Earth | Thought & Sight India's Incredible Tree Root Bridges | Thought & Sight

Below, examples of root knotting done by locals as they train the roots to cross the spans and form the structure of the bridge. Rubber trees flourish along riverbanks and produce a secondary root system higher on their trunks, making them ideal for the task. As the bridge grows, rocks are added to cover any gaps in the bridge floor, which the bridge then grows around and tightly incorporates into the structure. Once mature, root bridges can hold 50 or more people. No one seems quite sure how old some of the bridges are, but the estimated life span is 500-600 years!

India's Incredible Tree Root Bridges | Thought & SightIndia's Incredible Tree Root Bridges | Thought & Sight

India's Incredible Tree Root Bridges | Thought & Sight India's Incredible Tree Root Bridges | Thought & Sight

While word is that locals originally wanted to tear down the bridges and replace them with steel in the name of modernity, a wave of tourism has convinced them of the value of their living bridges, and the tradition continues. Now that these amazing structures are on my bucket list, I’m hoping to add some of my own tourist dollars to the pot.

(via The Atlantic)