12 Must-See Covered Bridges Found in Indiana
Indiana produces more corn than 45 U.S. states. And in Hoosier State days of yore, the only way to get that corn where it needed to go was by horse and buggy. This equine transit required some sturdy bridges to cross Wabash Creek, Sugar Creek, and Walnut Creek, not to mention tributaries from both Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. They needed some Indiana covered bridges.
Indiana is more than an agricultural powerhouse, but it still likes to embrace one element of those farming days: beautiful covered bridges.
We’ll Cross Those Indiana Covered Bridges When We Get There
Parke County, Indiana, is considered the Covered Bridge Capital of the World. They have 31 covered bridges. An annual festival in and around Parke County celebrates this fun heritage and tribute to pioneer craftsmanship. Also, the fall foliage in Indiana is a gorgeous alternative to the steep roads and steep prices of a northern New England fall trip.
The autumn festival is actually a moveable feast that includes scenic drives between individual stops for a given bridge.
Why Covered Bridges?
Before weather-treated lumber, wooden bridges took the full fury of the elements. As such, they could easily wear down over time. A novel approach somewhere along the line was simply to protect the bridge from the rain, sun, hail and so on. Hence, these bridge houses usually have gabled roofs and plank-board walls.
As well, the inherited folk wisdom says two other important things.
First, horses and livestock can easily get spooked by running water. So, driving cattle over a raging springtime river is a bad idea. The same goes for a horse pulling a fortune in fresh corn.
Second, the darkness of the covered bridge is thought to calm and ease these loyal quadrupeds with an environment that looked and felt like a barn.
So, there’s a lot of important history–including whether or not some people would eat–behind these rugged engineering feats. Here are 11 of Indiana’s must-see covered bridges for your trip.
Cox Ford Bridge
A return to old ways? This bridge is actually the replacement for an iron bridge. A flood took the previous one. This bridge has a steep but accessible unpaved ramp for kayak put-ins. The springtime produces some cheerful, purple forest pansy trees.
Way back, farmers or ranchers could take their time. A 90-second delay to free up the one lane on a covered bridge would not make or break their quarterly earnings. They’d wait for a neighbor to cross.
Ramp Creek Bridge, however, is a two-lane covered bridge. It’s also an intricate feat of construction ensconced in some glorious foliage.
The surrounding nature will catch your eye in the fall, but really any time of year. Brown County has some gentle-to-intermediate hiking to take it all in.
Ramp Creek is a rarity. There are almost no two-lane covered bridges in the US.
Irishman Bridge appears to be off the beaten path by the city of Terre Haute. It’s more of a historical site, so foot traffic is welcome. It spans W. Keith Ruble Lake and has a wonderful brick walkway leading up the old wooden standby.
Numerous historical activities and sites nearby remember the pioneer days. Plus an old-school water-wheel mill is there for photos as well. It is one of many covered bridges in Indiana and elsewhere surviving a transplant from its original location.
Marshall – Post Indy 500
Marshall Covered Bridge in Kingman is a humble covered bridge on a well-worn dirt-gravel path. With its enormous sandbar and crystal clear shallows near the bridge, Rush Creek looks like a great spot for rock collectors. The county apparently has given it a fresh coat of brilliant barn red, making it the perfect rustic tableau for an Instagram shot.
This horse-and-buggy project was built in 1917, eight years after the first car race in Indiana’s capital city!
Bridgerton, Perhaps the Most Celebrated of Indiana Covered Bridges
Bridgerton Mill, Dam and Covered Bridge bothered someone a great deal. Or they were very careless. In 2005, someone literally burned their bridges in Bridgerton. But it’s been restored, the city has rebounded, and the reboot is a source of civic pride.
The covered bridge incorporates a working flour mill! It produces a variety of cornmeals, flours and other baking goods. Walkways, in-ramps and other access points let visitors get down to the water’s edge and by the mini-waterfall trough. The bridge and area are something to be proud of, indeed.
There’s one covered bridge that got the attention of Fine Art in America. By Local route 400S, there is a covered bridge with the classic scarlet side boarding and the familiar fading white paint on the entrances. But, the old-school charm is only one of the draws.
The ivy growing down the side gives the bridge a stately Northeastern contrast.
But enough build-up, the draw is the sunflowers.
A photographer has snapped a photo of a brilliant sea of sunflowers by the bridge in the early morning. Rockville’s McAllister Bridge is worth the trip.
Zacke Cox Bridge
Not far from McAllister’s sunflower repast is Zacke Cox Bridge. It’s a compact covered bridge that spans a creek called Rock Run. There look to be some light purple forest pansy trees coming in. This provides a beautiful splash of color. It’s a nice offset to the wistful fall or spring when the greenery is less in bloom.
Turkey Run State Park’s Narrows
Narrows Covered Bridge is a hoss, which is ironic given its name. It’s a healthy 16 feet wide and over 120 feet long. This bridge is part of Indiana’s Turkey Run State Park. It doesn’t span a delicate meandering stream. This one spans Sugar Creek.
Sugar Creek looks at least twenty-five feet wide with some big boulder walls in this spot. Sugar Creek is a popular kayaking and fishing destination.
Medora Covered Bridge is closed to car traffic but still quite popular. Where Narrows covered bridge was a hoss, Medora is the King Kong. This covered bridge is 430 feet long. That’s very long for a covered bridge. This guy doesn’t span a gentle brook or a healthy creek; this spans the East Fork of the White River.
This fork of the river is big enough for watercraft. Photos of the bridge show a boat ramp nearby. It’s a stone’s throw from the nearby full-traffic bridge and picnic grounds.
Moped-riders and bikers appear to enjoy the trip, too: there is a paved road to the bridge, but pylons have been installed to prevent car traffic.
Oakalla Bridge is right near the delightfully named 3 Fat Labs Resort. It’s on a gravel road that is part of an annual cycling adventure to take in the best unpaved roads in the area. The bridge is named after the old nearby train station.
Leatherwood Stations Mill
The bridge was moved from its original location to Billie Creek Village. Surrounding the bridge are some reminders of an older way of farming, with moss-covered remains of old wagons off to the side and a rocky, broad sandbar beneath. The landscape has varied shrubby banks and old tall trees that leave a hefty deposit of fall foliage.
It’s on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mansfield Covered Bridge is part of the Parke County soiree. The fest pulls in hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. There is a nearby boardwalk and a wide mini-waterfall; a nice watery plateau for little ones to wade through is next to the pioneer-era inn.
Nearby red sandstone quarrying brought a railroad through the area. The old bridge has an accompanying water-wheel mill that was built and rebuilt several times.
It’s one of the longest covered bridges in this covered bridges capital of the world, Parke County. The hewn-limestone block foundation gives it a slightly old-world feel.
Like many of the classic era, it has a faded barn red exterior.
Agriculture, but Also Some Culture by Itself
Indiana enthusiastically embraces its covered bridges. The bridges are more than a way to get from A to B. They show that people in the not-too-distant past could do what needed to be done. The restoration efforts and the preservation and celebration of these covered bridges show that resourcefulness–not to mention some hard-to-put-into-words beauty–is worth remembering.