When The Bridges of Madison County came out in 1995, I remember thinking how awesome it was that covered bridges still existed. I was born in Detroit and lived in large cities most of my life, and had assumed that covered bridges were a thing of the past. Imagine my surprise when I found out that there were a few covered bridges right here in the county that I currently live, Erie Pennsylvania. And that some of them were still in use. I was even more surprised to find out that in neighboring Ashtabula County, Ohio, they boast 19 Covered Bridges and a Covered Bridge Festival held the 2nd weekend in October. In fact, Ashtabula County claims that they have both the shortest and the longest covered bridge in the United States. And one covered bridge that was even been moved and repurposed as a pizza parlor.
So now that we have a nice van to travel in, we decided to make a special road trip to Ashtabula County to check out their bridges. We stopped at the Tourist Information Center at the first rest stop inside of Ohio on I-90 and picked up an Ashtabula County Visitor’s Guide that has a pull-out map of the county that shows two self-guided driving tours to see the bridges. Each tour is just shy of 70 miles each, with the first tour visiting 13 bridges, and the second visiting the other 6. However, we decided not to follow the tours since they start roughly in the middle part of the county in Jefferson Village and we were entering from the East, so it just didn’t make sense.
For those of you who prefer to send away for the book in advance of making the trip or prefer to download the map with the tours on it you can do so here:
Keep in mind that the self-guided tour assumes that you are in a car without any weight or clearance issues, so if you are in a van there will be bridges that you will not be able to cross, and the tour will not work out perfectly for you.
Finding the bridges turned out to be really easy. The guide for the tours gives actual addresses for the bridges, and when we input them into our Garmin GPS it brought us to every bridge without fail. However, if your GPS doesn’t work as well or if you prefer you can input the GPS Coordinates. The ones that I will put into this guide for you come from the following, but I have to warn you that I didn’t verify them, as I wasn’t aware of them until after our trip.
But even if you are just winging it the old fashioned way with only the map, there will be many signs along the way to indicate that you are on the correct road, such as these:
So one of the first things that I noticed as I was taking my notes for this blog was that a lot of the bridges were not from the 19th century as I had assumed they were. And unless you are an engineer (I am not) or read the signs, that wasn’t very obvious with a few, as they were designed to look old. Although I will note the date that each bridge was constructed, I will also include a list of the new and old bridges at the end, so that if you only want to visit just the old ones, you can do so easily.
The other thing that was apparent pretty quickly was that most of the bridges are built along private property, as evidenced by the various signs. So don’t assume that you will be able to fish near them, or get off of the road easily in order to take better pictures.
Also due to the era that most of the covered bridges originated from, they tend to be one lane only bridges. So be cautious when crossing since some are built right on a curve in the road. And many of these roads are still dirt roads.
Since we didn’t visit the bridges in the order of the guide, I will put their number from the guided tour in parentheses after the name.
The first bridge that we visited was Middle Road Covered Bridge (6).
This 136 foot long Howe Truss bridge was built in 1868 and spans Conneaut Creek. The road leading up to it is dirt and was like a washboard on the day that we traveled. There is room to park 1-2 small vehicles alongside the road on the southwest side of the bridge. And alongside the parking area is a covered box with Conneaut Maps inside. These maps list and show you various points of interest in the immediate vicinity, such as a nice lighthouse, 2 wineries, 4 parks, and several restaurants and accommodations. Grab one of them if you want to find other things to do in the area. The clearance for this bridge is a nice roomy 13’ 6’, and the weight limit is 25 tons. Unfortunately, there is a lot of graffiti on this very old historic bridge which was so sad. Also, although the guide says that this is a favorite steelhead stream, all of the signs around it indicate that it is private property surrounding the bridge so don’t plan on fishing for steelhead from here.
The Caine Road Covered Bridge (3) was our next stop.
This 124 foot long Pratt Variation style bridge spans the west branch of the Ashtabula River. But in spite of its looks, this bridge was just recently built in 1986, and as such is not an “authentic” covered bridge, meaning that it isn’t covered to protect its wooden truss from rotting. It was instead built in honor of the 175th anniversary of the county. However, since it was obviously meant to resemble a bridge of bygone days, it is still just a one lane bridge. And it is built on a dirt road. There is room for parking 1-2 vehicles alongside the road on the southeast side of the bridge. The clearance is 13’ 5” in the middle, 11’ 0” at the sides, and the weight limit is 9 tons for 2 axles.
The Graham Road Covered Bridge (4) is no longer a part of the roadway, and cannot be driven over.
Built from the remnants of a former covered bridge that was damaged in a flood in 1913, this 97-foot long bridge now sits in an Ashtabula County Metro Park along the south side of Graham Road, near its original site, and is a Single Span Town Truss design. There is a picnic table at the far end on the inside of the bridge nearest the west branch of the Ashtabula River. You can park on the side of the road. The bridge’s WGCB number is 35-04-13.
Turn around and go back to Stanhope Kelloggsville Rd and turn right (north). Go to Root Rd and turn right.
The Root Road Covered Bridge (5) is a 114 foot long Town Lattice design built in 1868 and spans the west branch of the Ashtabula River.
In 1983 it was rehabilitated with new, laminated girders, a center concrete pier and raised 18 inches. It is a one-lane bridge on a dirt road and open to traffic, but since its clearance was only 9’ 4” in the middle and 8’ 2” at the sides (we couldn’t find a weight limit so is probably whatever the road’s weight limit is) we were unable to drive across it in our van. There is parking on the southeast side of the bridge.
Turn around and turn right on State Rd. Head north to State Rd Bridge.
The State Road Covered Bridge (7) is a newer 157 foot long Town Lattice design built in 1983 and was the first of several designed and built by County Engineer John Smolen Jr.
The dedication of this bridge was the forerunner of the Covered Bridge Festival that is celebrated in the fall. This is a one-lane bridge that spans Conneaut Creek with a clearance of 16’ 2” and no weight limit indicated nearby. There is lots of parking alongside the road on the southwest side of the bridge along with a walking path down to the creek. It was so lovely here that this is where we decided to stop and have our lunch for the day.
The Creek Road Covered Bridge (8) is a 125 foot long Town Lattice design bridge has an unknown date of origin.
This one-lane bridge spans Conneaut Creek on a dirt road with a large parking area on the northeast side of the bridge. We saw two adult American Eagles while visiting this location. The clearance is 11’ 4” and the weight limit is 8 tons per axle – 16 tons gross. Cub scouts built two benches in 2012 to sit on nearby the bridge.
Next, we visited the Covered Bridge Pizza Parlor in North Kingsville, OH.
It is constructed from ½ of the original Forman Road Bridge built in 1862 in Eagleville, OH, which was dismantled in 1972 when it was replaced. Photographs were taken when it was dismantled so that it could be reconstructed accurately. The new pizza parlor opened in 1977. Since we had already eaten lunch by the time that we visited, I cannot say how good the pizza is. However, it does get very good reviews on Trip Advisor.
Benetka Covered Bridge (9) is a 138 foot long Town Lattice designed bridge with a stunning arch that spans the Ashtabula River.
This one-lane bridge on a dirt road was constructed around 1900 and renovated in 1985. That is when the arch was added. Clearance is 10’ 9” and the weight limit is 5 tons per axle – 12 tons gross. There is parking for 1-2 vehicles on the Northwest side of the bridge.
Olin Covered Bridge (10) is the only bridge on the tour that is not named after the road or that it is on, Dewey, or the engineer that designed it, but rather the family who has owned the property adjacent to it since it was built in 1873.
This 115 foot Town Lattice design bridge spans the Ashtabula River. It is a one-lane bridge on a dirt road. The clearance is 11’ 11” and the weight limit is 8 tons per axle – 16 tons gross. 1 – 2 vehicles can park on the north side of the bridge. We saw a wild turkey here.
Nearby is Olin's Museum of Covered Bridges. Unfortunately, since we were there in May, they were not open yet for the summer season. According to their website they are open from June 1 - October 31st Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1-5 PM. Here is a link to their site so that if you are interested you can find out the current information:
Smolen-Gulf (11) is the longest covered bridge in the USA and the fourth longest in the world.
Opened in 2008, this new 613 foot long Pratt Truss design bridge spans the Ashtabula River, and is open to two-way traffic as well as pedestrian traffic. It is 83 feet above the river, and a part of State Road. You can pull into the parking lot on the Northeast side of the bridge to get a closer look at it or to take a stroll across the pedestrian walkway. There are benches and a covered information pavilion there.
If you travel down the hill from the parking lot, you will find the newest bridge in Ashtabula County, Riverview Covered Bridge (12).
Opened in October 2016 this 150 foot long Pratt and Truss designed bridge also spans the Ashtabula River but only for foot traffic. You will find outhouses in the parking lot which is also the access point for Indian Trails Park, hiking, and biking trails.
After visiting the longest covered bridge in the USA we visited West Liberty Covered Bridge (15) in Geneva, OH, the shortest covered bridge in the USA.
It is only 18 feet in length and spans Cowles Creek using timber that was donated from local landowners. Designed by John Smolen, it was opened in 2011 to two-way traffic. It has a single Kingpost and the roof is a scissor truss and 15’ 0” clearance. Alongside the road, they also built a toll keeper’s booth that is only for show. In the parking lot built nearby, there is a lending library and community pantry that you can donate to if you wish.
Harpersfield Covered Bridge (16) is part of the Harpersfield Covered Bridge County Metro Park and has a large parking lot on either side of the bridge along with several picnic tables, some under covered pavilions.
There are also restrooms available in the park. At 228 feet in length, this is the second longest covered bridge in Ohio. This Howe Truss design bridge was built in 1868 and spans the Grand River. In 1913 after a flood washed away land on the north end of the bridge the steel span was added. Today it is open to both one-way traffic as well as pedestrian traffic with the walkway that was added in 1991-92 when the bridge was renovated.
Mechanicsville Covered Bridge (17) was our last covered bridge for day 1.
Although you can still drive over it, it is not a part of the main road anymore. Built in 1867, over the Grand River, it is believed to be the oldest of the County’s Covered Bridges. This 167 foot long Howe Truss bridge with arch was renovated in 2003-2004. The arch is 15 layers of 2 x 8 lumber encased by large beams which form the X's of the Howe truss. The clearance is 10’ 0” and although no weight limits were posted, signs indicate that larger vehicles are prohibited. This bridge is across from Grand River Manor.
Our first bridge of the second day was South Denmark Covered Bridge (2).
Constructed in 1895 this 81 foot long Town Truss design bridge spans Mill Creek. There is no parking anywhere for this bridge, but since in 1975 the road bypassed the old bridge, and the old road is still accessible from the new road, you can drive right up to it from either side and depending upon your vehicle can still drive over this one lane bridge. The clearance is 9’ 0” and the weight limit is 4 tons.
Netcher Covered Bridge (1) Opened in 1999 this covered bridge looks like an old schoolhouse.
This 110-foot long bridge that spans Mill Creek features a timber arch and inverted Haupt Walls. There is parking on the Southeast & Southwest side if the bridge for 1-2 small vehicles. Clearance is 14’ 6”.
Giddings Covered Bridge (13) is another new bridge designed to look old.
This bridge was built in 1995 this Pratt Truss design bridge is 107 feet long and spans Mill Creek. Parking is on the Northeast side of the bridge for 1 small vehicle. Clearance is 15’ 6”
Doyle (14) This bridge was built in 1868. This 94 foot long Town Lattice design bridge spans Mill Creek.
There is parking on the north side of the bridge on both sides. Clearance is 11’ 5” and the weight limit is 8 tons per axle, 16 tons gross.
Riverdale (18) was built in 1874 this 114 foot long Town Lattice design, the one-lane bridge spans the Grand River.
The floor was rebuilt in 1981 and glue-laminated wood girders were added. Center steel bracing had been replaced under the bridge in 1945. The road at the east end of the bridge washed out in 1987, and a new concrete abutment was built for added support. As stated in the official tour, it is very narrow. And there is no parking on either side of the bridge.
Windsor Mills (19) also called Warner Hollow was the last bridge of the official tour that we visited on Day 2.
It was built in 1867 and is 120 feet long over Phelps Creek, a tributary of the Grand River. The Town Lattice design sits atop cut stone abutments with unique center supports. One is of sandstone quarried nearby. The other, in contrast, is made from creek stone. Windsor Mills Covered Bridge is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This bridge was renovated in 2002-2004 and was once again opened to traffic in the spring of 2004. There is a pullover to the North for one vehicle. There are no large vehicles allowed on the bridge and the clearance is 11’ 3”. As I was commenting on the amount of horse manure on the bridge to my husband I looked up and saw an Amish buggy approaching.
Although we had now finished the official tour, I had downloaded an app called Covered Bridges Locator by MapMuse to my phone prior to the trip. The app allows you to get directions, rate or review the bridge, view or add photos of the bridge to the app, and check any or all of the following three boxes
- I have VISITED this place
- Add to FAVORITE list or
- Add to BUCKET list
If you check that you have visited this place, then when you look back at the map it will have a checkmark on the symbol rather than a B so that you will now know automatically that you have already been there. And by the same token, if you add them to any other list, you can access those lists at the bottom of the app under the Favorites button.
So naturally I started marking each bridge using this app as I visited it, but it soon became apparent that there were other bridges on the app that were not on the official tour put out by Ashtabula County. I couldn’t figure out why this was, so on the second day, we decided to go visit a few nearby to see why. It soon became apparent that these other bridges were all on private property rather than a part of state roads. We visited the following:
Chutas - N41 32.754 W80 46.029 - No parking. Small covered bridge on private property, quite a ways from the road.
Manners Tree Farm - N41 35.175 W80 45.718 - No Parking. Small covered bridge over a dry ditch on private property.
Oxley - N41 49.829 W80 52.065 – No parking. On private property over a dry creek.
5551 - N41 50.43 W80 52.07 – No parking. On private property. It does not appear to be above or over any ditch or creek.
After these four we realized that there was no reason to continue as there was no way to easily stop and get photos, but they were interesting nonetheless.
As promised, here are the lists of the covered bridges by age:
Old Covered Bridges:
New Covered Bridges:
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