Public Square

The Covered Bridges

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(Yes, of that Madison County)

Have you ever gone in search of some place from a favorite book or movie?  I most assuredly and unabashedly have, and I know I am not alone in looking for a restaurant or book store, simply because someone whose work I admired mentioned a particular meal or chance encounter in the establishment.  After all, how many individuals, who were not from Pamplona, ran with the bulls, before Hemingway wrote about the experience?  But my stop by the Bridges of Madison County was completely by chance.


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Hogback (1884) was our first Bridge


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The Famed Roseman Bridge (1870)


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Cutler-Donahoe  Bridge(1870)

I had gone to Iowa in search of President Herbert Hoover’s birthplace and library.  After having spent two days exploring the library and grounds, we got in the car to continue to our journey west, when we both suddenly spotted a green highway sign, which caused us to look at one another and wonder if we should exit – which we did.  Were we in the Madison County, were these those covered bridges?

Exiting the freeway, we quickly realized that they were in fact, those famed bridges from Robert James Waller’s best seller The Bridges of Madison County, and the film by the same name.  We managed to find a brochure, and went about visiting all but one of the bridges, in a long afternoon that turned into an early evening, and included a quick stop by John Wayne’s home and museum, who is also from Madison County.

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Kate with Merry, in John’s back yard


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Mr. Wayne’s place of birth


According to the Madison County website: “Madison County originally boasted 19 covered bridges, but just six remain today, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors to help preserve the large flooring timbers, which were more expensive to replace than the lumber used to cover the bridge sides and roof. Usually, the bridges were named for the resident who lived closest.”


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The floor planks which needed to be covered


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The rafters — Kate and Merry reading the many messages inscribed on the walls


There is a romantic notion to the covered bridges, which for so many, represent a bygone era that is viewed through those proverbial rose colored glasses.  The Americana notion of the hard working mid-westerner, with their family farm, who attends church regularly, helps out his neighbor, and believes in God, country, and family.   Ironically, Waller’s book, though spoken of as a love story which it is, is also a story about adultery – which at least, in theory, is not a part of that romantic notion; nevertheless, the bridges are romantic, and on the day and evening that we toured them, we found more than one couple who was trying to live out their own love story, by adding a splash of rose pigment to their canvas.


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Yes, it was dark and raining by the time we found Holliwell Bridge (1880)


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Our last stop on our tour of Madison County was Imes Bridge (1870)

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Madison County Brochure



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