Narrow-bridged musk turtles are typically brown in color. Their scutes have lines and graining that make them almost appear wood-like. They often have bright-yellow markings on the edges of their carapaces. As they age, algae often heavily cover their shells, masking their patterning and coloration. Their heads are large and bulbous for their size, with long necks and sharp beaks. Their shells are domed, with three distinct ridges down the length. Though classified in the subfamily Staurotypinae with the "giant" musk turtles, narrow-bridged musk turtles generally only grow to about 6.5 in (16.5 cm) in length.
Like all musk turtles, narrow-bridged musk turtles are almost entirely aquatic, and prefer habitats such as slow-moving creeks, or shallow ponds that are heavily vegetated. They spend much of their time walking along the bottom, foraging for aquatic insects and other invertebrates, and carrion. They have glands under the rear of their shells which they can use to release a foul-smelling musk, hence their common name.