Imagine strolling through a back road and stumbling upon a structure that does not look like it belongs to this time; that is the beauty of seeing a covered bridge. When you see them in the middle of trees with the soft sound of running water underneath, it almost feels like they have the power to transport someone to a different era, where people still used horse and carriages. The covered bridges in Indiana are not rare sights since it is home to 98 bridges; the Parke County has 31 still in use.
Besides having a beautiful exterior, these covered bridges had a purpose. They were constructed over a wooden footbridge to prevent the wood from deteriorating over time – due to the weather or a natural force and to ensure the limber’s longevity. They were also helpful in stopping the horses from spooking by the sound of water flowing underneath. The couples used it as a meeting place, and political and religious rallies were held inside the bridges.
The construction of these covered bridges in Indiana began in the 1830s, and went on till the early 1900s. J. J. Daniels, Joseph A. Britton, and A. M. Kennedy were the builder of most of the bridges. The former two lived in the Rockville area, whereas the latter lived in the Rushville area. It’s also why Park County has a heavy count of bridges than all of the counties in the state of Indiana – and why Parke County claims itself as the ‘covered bridge capital’ of the world. The Indiana County Parks & Trails maintains the covered bridges in Indiana.
While at one time there were more than 500 covered bridges in Indiana, the number of those bridges have decreased. The reasons were many – natural disasters, arson, or general neglect. Today, some are being restored slowly with the help of funding. And those bridges that were destroyed are being rebuilt to pay homage to the original ones. Bridgeton Bridge, Bridgeton, Parke County, this bridge was destroyed by fire in 2005 but was rebuilt again in 2006.
Then there is the Mansfield Bridge (Mansfield, Parke County), which had its roof and span ripped off by the wind in 2006 and restored in 2007.
Many bridges we see today are made of trusses, and the same concept was used in the covered bridges. A truss has connected elements typically in a triangular form that makes it the bridge’s load-bearing member. These trusses carry the compression and tension due to the weight of vehicles crossing on the bridge.
The key design that was used for the building of covered bridges was Burr Truss. It was invented in 1804 by Theodore Burr, and he patented it on April 3, 1817. This design includes an arch with multiple king post trusses like King post, Queen post, Lattice, and Howe. ‘Farmer’s Almanac,’ an annual American periodical, provided the information that the color “Barn Red” of the covered bridges’ exterior comes from the mixture of orange-tinted linseed oil and ferrous oxide.
Different types of wood were used for different parts of the structure, such as Cedar for the roof. Supports were made of tulip poplar, pinewood was used for sides, and the floors were made of oak. Tulip poplar was found in a generous amount, and it”s wood had a chemical to repel termites and bugs.
Parke County Covered Bridge Festival
The Parke County Covered Bridge Festival is a celebration to commemorate the covered bridges’ history in Indiana. It is celebrated over 10 days in October and involves showcasing 31 of Parke County-covered bridges that allow tourists to visit these sites by following a loop trail in a map they are provided.
The thing that began as a small three-day festival held by Rockville’s local women now has become a massive annual event where more than two million people attend this festival each year. When the first festival was held in Rockville in 1857, it was just a farmers market that locals started to accommodate the curious visitors who wished to see all the bridges but didn’t know where to go. They created a map that comprises four paths that will cover all 31 bridges.
For many vendors, most of their income comes from this festival. The festival is filled with activities to do throughout the county and the bridges’ sighting, the people enjoy different food from each county, no one stalls is similar to others. This festival’s popularity helped spread awareness among the local communities and aid in the restoration process of the bridges that were wearing down due to neglect. The residents’ also help maintain the covered bridges in Indiana,, giving a chance to many tourists to experience crossing century-old bridges.
Let’s Explore the Top 8 Covered Bridges in Indiana
Here is a list of some of the unique Covered Bridges in Indiana
1. The Cox Ford Bridge, Annapolis, Parke County
2. The Cades Mill Covered bridge, Fountain County.
3. The Medora Covered Bridge, Jackson County
It is the longest covered bridge in Indiana, and it has three spans.
4. The Ramp Creek Covered Bridge, Nashville Brown County
5. The Phillips Covered Bridge, Montezuma, Parke County
It is only 43 feet long, making it the shortest one of the covered bridges in Indiana.
6. The McAlister Covered Bridge, Adams Township
7. The Moscow Covered Bridge, Moscow
It is the third-longest bridge in Indiana, with two spans.
8. The Jackson Covered Bridge, Annapolis, Parke County
And there are many more. Some of these bridges maybe have the same exterior, but they are built with different designs, and each one of them holds a unique history, and they are worth the time it takes to explore all of them.
Give It a Thought
Once upon a time, almost 14,000 Covered bridges were built in the United States of America. Now, the number has reduced to less than 1000. For one, the need for these bridges has reduced over time. Well, we don’t use horses anymore for our travel. Bridges no longer in use face neglect. Yet, covered bridges in Indiana are cherished as a relic by the community.
The great way to start the introduction to a place is to uncover the history behind it, and a better way to learn than exploring these bygone structures to find out the past. Each covered bridge in Indiana will tell a different story, which helps understand many of the customs that are still followed in the region. “The Parke County Covered Bridge Festival” is an excellent means to start a journey in discovering the charm of these bridges.
History nerds can experience what it was like when the bridges were heavily used. Romantics can enjoy the passion of the place, artists are inspired by the ambiance these places bring. The architecture of these bridges shows a great part of the evolution of bridges that we see now.
It is amazing to see how the appreciation of the past has grown with time, and people are willing to invest their time admiring these artifacts. The backdrop and the rural setting of the covered bridges give them an intimate feeling and many people in search of their perfect moment come here with their partners. In fiction, they are written as romantic places for the lovers; well, there is a reason they are called kissing bridges.
Humans move on from one thing to another, but they are still willing to take the story that made us who we are. These covered bridges sign the one generation honoring the previous one, giving a nostalgic feeling for a past we didn’t live.