No, I am not talking about the movie The Bridges of Madison County, but the movie was inspired by the covered bridges in Madison Co., Iowa. However, the movie only featured two of these bridges, while we visited five bridges (a 6th was burned down) while we were in Iowa at the end of September. For Nancy Merrill’s A Photo A Week challenge with the topic Bridges, here are my photos of the bridges of Madison County.
We drove from Des Moines south to the charming town of Winterset, which is the “jumping off” point for visiting the bridges. At the Visitors Center there, we obtained a map and information about the bridges. The brochure we were given also described other attractions of Winterset: The Iowa Quilt Museum, Clark Tower, John Wayne’s Birthplace, and George Washington Carver Park (see separate post), among others. Of these, we decided to visit Clark Tower and George Washington Carver Park.
First, we drove out to the Roseman Covered Bridge, to the west of Winterset.
A plaque told us that the Roseman Covered Bridge was built in 1883 by Benton Jones and G. K. Foster. It is a covered timber town lattice truss overlaid by a queenpost frame.
It is 225 feet long, the truss itself being 104 ft., by 15.4 ft. wide and spans the Middle River. Roseman was one of the last of the covered bridges to be built, and cost $2,930.00.
The Roseman Bridge carried traffic across the river for nearly 100 years, until it was bypassed by a modern highway bridge in 1981.
The plaque further explained that the Roseman Bridge has withstood the test of time while most other timber truss bridges have been demolished due to a structural redundancy: Benton Jones had strengthened the truss further by superimposing a queenpost truss.
The floor boards have warped over time.
On the near end, the approach contains a lot of graffiti.
View from inside looking out toward the parking area.
Far end approach
We then drove back east through town, where we saw the Madison County Freedom Rock, painted by Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II.
We drove east through town and took a detour to see Clark Tower, which was a bit disappointing after a long, winding drive uphill.
Clark Tower is at one end of City Park and the Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge is at the other.
This bridge was built in 1870 by Eli Cox and is 70 feet long. It has a covered timber superstructure, a towne lattice truss with overlay queenpost frame. It originally crossed the North River, 18 miles northeast of Winterset and was moved to City Park in 1970.
To visit the Holliwell Covered Bridge, we drove 3.3 miles southeast of town. At 156 feet, Holliwell is the longest covered bridge and the longest remaining timber bridge in Iowa.
It was completed in 1880 by H.P. Jones and G.K. Foster, spanning the Middle River, at a cost of only $1,180!
Like many of its predecessors, it was constructed with a town lattice truss configuration with a pair of timber arches superimposed over the truss.
The map in our brochure still points the way to Cedar Covered Bridge, although this bridge is no more. A teenage boy, after a night of drinking with his buddies and despondent over a break-up with his girlfriend, set the bridge on fire. Soon afterward, he felt tremendous remorse for having destroyed this historic bridge, built in 1883 and featured in the movie The Bridges of Madison County. It is currently being rebuilt.
The Imes Covered Bridge, next on our tour, is the oldest of the covered bridges. It was located over Middle River near the town of Patterson, but has been moved south to St. Charles, near Madison County’s eastern border.
The last of the covered bridges to visit, Hogback Covered Bridge, is located off Hwy 169 (the main highway connecting Winterset and Des Moines) north of Winterset. To get there, we took a 4 mile loop on a gravel road.
Hogback is in its original location over the North River. It was built in 1884, the last all-timber truss to be built in Madison Co. Designed by Benton Jones, it is a covered timber town lattice truss overlaid with a queenpost frame.
It is 160 feet long, including a 98 ft. truss and two 62 ft. approaches, and 15 ft. wide.
Hogback is named for the limestone ridge forming the west end of a valley. In 1992, it was renovated at a cost of $118,810 – several times more than the original construction!
It is not known how many covered bridges were built in Iowa between 1850 and 1900, but a conservative estimate is around 100. The vast majority were destroyed by flooding, fire, collisions or demolition, leaving us with only a few examples to visit and preserve.