Mar 24 2011

The Bridges of Madison County (and beyond)

Covered bridges in the United States seem to hold some special sort of mystique, whether it be nostalgia or architectural interest.  Once utilitarian, their numbers are dwindling as these bridges age and are overtaken by the elements, road and bridge improvements, or, sadly, even vandalism.  Perhaps the most well-known covered bridges in the U.S. are in and around Winterset, Iowa, made famous by the book and movie The Bridges of Madison County.


Today, six covered bridges remain in Madison County, and they are easy to find using maps available from the Madison County Chamber of Commerce or by following road signs.  Madison County’s bridges have all been renovated, and some relocated, so that they are beautiful places to visit.  One is in Winterset’s city park, where a twisting, winding, narrow road leads up a hill to an old stone lookout tower that provides views of the valley below.  (John Wayne’s birthplace is also in Winterset, making this Iowa town a worthwhile stopping point when traveling near Des Moines.)

The Madison County bridges are well-kept, but they’re not the only concentration of covered bridges in the country.  Several years ago, my husband and I explored bridges in Parke County, Indiana, which calls itself the Covered Bridge Capital of the World.  With 31 bridges in the area, we didn’t have time to see them all, but we enjoyed traveling the back roads through farmland and tiny villages to see several of the bridges with the picturesque backdrop of fall colors.  Like Madison County, Parke County offers a map of its bridges, and both places have festivals celebrating these local landmarks.

Do you enjoy hunting down covered bridges?  There’s a good list of covered bridges, organized by state and province, at the Ohio Barns website.  (This site also includes information about Ohio’s centennial barns, Mail Pouch barns, old gas stations, and more, and is definitely worth browsing if you like these old things.)  If you like covered bridges, you’ll also want to visit Midwest Guest’s posts about covered bridges in Michigan and Ohio.

Are there any covered bridges near where you live or travel? Which is your favorite?

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3 comments so far

3 Comments to “The Bridges of Madison County (and beyond)”

  1. Dominique on 24 Mar 2011 at 2:58 pm

    Thanks for the links to my Ohio & Michigan covered bridge stories!
    These look like great bridges, too. I remember some folks telling me about Parke County’s bridges and festival when I did those Ashtabula, Ohio stories.
    These are all definitely on my list of places to go.

  2. [...] (minnemom) writes about family travel at Travels with Children.  She enjoys finding covered bridges with her [...]

  3. the bridges of madison county on 20 May 2011 at 1:33 pm

    [...] The Bridges of Madison County (and beyond) | Travels with Children … Mar 24, 2011 … Information about covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa, and Parke County, Indiana. [...]

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