Location: Winterset, Iowa
Webpage: County Scenic Trail
General Description: The covered bridges in Madison County, Iowa, make it the Covered Bridge Capital west of the Mississippi. These covered bridges are some of the remaining survivors of hundreds of covered bridges built in the late 1800s throughout the state. Of the six remaining bridges in Madison County, the oldest is Cutler-Donahue Bridge built in 1870 and the newest is Hogback Covered Bridge built in 1884. The longest is Holliwell Bridge at 122 feet. Three of the bridges can be accessed on paved roads, Imes Bridge in St. Charles, Cutler-Donahue Bridge which was moved to Winterset City Park, and Cedar Bridge just south of Winterset on Cedar Bridge Road. The other three bridges, Roseman, Hogback, and Holliwell are accessed by dirt roads in the county. All of the bridges are original construction, except for Cedar Bridge which burned down in 2002 and rebuilt in 2004. The bridges were made famous by Robert Waller’s 1992 novella, The Bridges of Madison County, and the 1995 movie and 2014 musical of the same name.
1) Be ready for a road trip if you are going to visit the Bridges of Madison County. Most of the bridges are centered at Winterset, except for Imes Bridge which is outside St. Charles between Winterset and the Interstate. They have a nice scenic byway that takes you to all the bridges, however, it loop through much of the county over dirt roads most of the way. It is a good way to get a feel for southwest Iowa.
2) I had expected to see a wide range of covered bridge styles, however, the bridges are all of identical construction. They were all built over a 15 year period and follow the same construction model. They differ only on their length, so once you see one, be ready to see it again. The best example is the Cutler-Donahue Bridge which is easily accessible in the City Park. However, since it was moved from its original location, you miss the impact of the river flowing underneath.
3) It is obvious that the Cedar Bridge is of newer construction, however, they have done a good job in reproducing the original bridge. There is also a nice park at the bridge which is a perfect place for a picnic lunch.