The Magic of Midwest Covered Bridges

Ashtabula County, Ohio
Benetka Covered Bridge .

Take a trip back in time to historic covered bridges throughout the Midwest, including Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.

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Ashtabula County, Ohio

Ashtabula County, Ohio
Benetka Covered Bridge.

Benetka Road Covered Bridge, built about 1900 and renovated in 1985, spans the Ashtabula River and is one of 17 historic and reconstructed bridges in northeast Ohio's Ashtabula County. In the fall, the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival features tours of the bridges plus country music, clogging and pumpkin carving. Orchards and vineyards surround pretty lake towns in Ashtabula, which borders Lake Erie.

While you're there: Explore local wineries including Debonne Vineyards in Madison, 8 miles south of Geneva, and Harpersfield Vineyard in Geneva. Sample Italian dishes and wine made on-site at Ferrante Winery and Ristorante, south of Geneva. Stay overnight at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake on the southern shore of Lake Erie.

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Madison County, Iowa

Roseman Bridge, Madison County, Iowa
Roseman Bridge, Madison County.

Six of Madison County's original 19 covered bridges remain today—enough to have inspired a best-selling novel, movie and Broadway show. A covered bridge festival in October features music, a quilt show, local artists, a parade and guided bus tours of the covered bridges. Winterset, the county seat, is about 40 miles southwest of Des Moines.

While you're there: Fans of John Wayne may want to visit the John Wayne Birthplace and Museum; the legendary actor was born in a four-room home here on May 26, 1907. Head to Des Moines for a variety of lodgings, restaurants and activities. Be sure to wander through the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines, dotted with 31 sculptures.

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Parke County, Indiana

Parke County's covered bridges
Bob Stefko

Thirty-one covered bridges punctuate Parke County's landscape like the miniature buildings in a model train set. Here, 55 miles west of Indianapolis in the Wabash River Valley, you'll find the nation's highest concentration of covered bridges. Often built near mills, bridges once connected farmsteads separated by squiggling streams. In autumn, tour buses roll in for the half-century-old Covered Bridge Festival.

While you're there: In any season, the rock cliffs of Turkey Run State Park provide places to hike and reflect. The park's Turkey Run Inn offers inexpensive lodging. Browse for gifts at the Covered Bridge Art Gallery in downtown Rockville.

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Everett Road Covered Bridge, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Everett Road Covered Bridge. Randall L. Schieber

Of more than 2,000 covered bridges that once existed in Ohio, only a handful remain today, including Everett Road Covered Bridge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (a half-hour south of Cleveland). The bridge spans Furnace Run and is believed to have been built in the 1870s, around the time that a local farmer drowned trying to cross the treacherous waters in winter.

While you're there: The 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park includes spectacular rock formations and waterfalls, 160 miles of tails, golf courses and a living-history settlement. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad travels through the park. Just to the north, Cleveland has more than enough activities to round out a weekend, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

It's a little bridge with a big impact: North of Empire, Michigan, Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive forms a majestic, 7.4-mile loop between Little Glen Lake and Lake Michigan. Drivers and cyclists follow the M-22 spur through a short covered bridge and beech and maple forests to sprawling lake overlooks, all within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

While you're there: You could plan a whole vacation around Traverse City, about 30 miles east of Sleeping Bear Dunes. Wine-country tours by bike, pub crawls by water and sailing on a replica schooner color escapes to this Lake Michigan harbor town and its neighbors. The Homestead in Glen Arbor makes an ideal base for exploring both Sleeping Bear Dunes and Traverse City.

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Brown County, Indiana

Bean Blossom Covered Bridge
John Noltner

A winding two-lane road leads to Bean Blossom Covered Bridge north of Nashville. Built in 1880, it's the only original covered bridge in Brown County and is a popular subject for photographers and artists. Just an hour south of Indianapolis, Brown County offers a serene vibe at state parks, artists' colonies and small towns.

While you're there: Wander on secluded paths at Brown County State Park, explore the area's artistic heritage at T.C. Steele Historic Site and spend some time in Nashville, which has fewer than 2,000 people but more than 150 shops, galleries and artists' studios. Overnight visitors can settle into a cozy cabin at Brown County State Park's Abe Martin Lodge or relax in the Victorian-style Cornerstone Inn in Nashville.

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Greenfield Village, Michigan

Greenfield Village, Michigan

The Ackley Covered Bridge, built in 1832, originally resided near West Finley, Pennsylvania. By the 1930s, when Henry Ford was looking for a covered bridge to add to his collection of historic buildings at Greenfield Village, the Ackley bridge had fallen into disrepair and was scheduled to be torn down. Ford had it dismantled and trucked more than 300 miles to Dearborn, where it was reassembled.

While you're there: Spend at least a day at The Henry Ford, one of the nation's top historic attractions. Ford's remarkable collection of buildings and artifacts fill Henry Ford Museum and neighboring Greenfield Village; you can also take an auto-factory tour at the Ford Rouge Plant. At the Village, a Michigan stagecoach tavern serves authentic circa-1850 foods such as chicken fricassee. Spend the night in the nearby Georgian-style Dearborn Inn.

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South Haven, Michigan

Kal-Haven State Park Michigan

Walk or bike across the Donald F. Nichols Bridge, part of Kal-Haven Trail State Park. The 108-foot-long bridge crosses the Black River about 1 mile east of the South Haven trailhead. From there, you can continue more than 30 miles through the Michigan countryside to the northwest suburbs of Kalamazoo.

While you're there: South Haven has beaches within walking distance of downtown and inns, plus fresh foods at the edge of wine country. The 1920s Victoria Resort Bed and Breakfast features spacious guest rooms and cottages, many with whirlpool tubs and fireplaces. For adventures of another sort, set sail on the replica schooner Friends Good Will.

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Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

A covered bridge made by Amish craftsman is one of many attractions at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, a 10,000-acre area that straddles the Missouri-Arkansas border, about 30 minutes southwest of Branson, Missouri. Explore the park by foot, bike, horseback, kayak, tram or Jeep tours. Waterfalls, trout streams and large herds of buffalo and elk dot the rolling terrain.

While you're there: Lounge the day away at Table Rock Lake, or head to Branson for shopping and more than 50 theaters with family-friendly shows. Silver Dollar City theme park mixes history and crafts with cool rides. Among the many overnight lodgings is Big Cedar Lodge, an upscale full-service resort along a quiet part of the lake south of Branson.

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Amnicon Falls, Wisconsin

Amnicon Falls State Park Wisconsin

A 55-foot-long covered footbridge crosses the Amnicon River at the Lower Falls, leading to a small island at Amnicon Falls State Park (about 15 miles southeast of Superior). The bridge, which was not covered at the time it was built, was moved to its current location in the 1930s; the roof was added in 1939 and has been replaced twice since then. The unusual bowstring design uses arched beams secured with hooks and clips rather than rivets and bolts.

While you're there: A 30-minute drive takes you to Duluth. Watch freighters come and go under the 1905 Aerial Lift Bridge and gawk at giant sturgeon at the Great Lakes Aquarium. Impeccable service and guest rooms define Fitger's Inn along the Lakewalk, while at South Pier Inn on the Canal, second-floor rooms with private balconies facing the canal give a great view of ships passing under the Aerial Lift Bridge.

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Atwood, Kansas

Atwood Covered Bridge Kansas
Harland J. Schuster

This small covered walking bridge is tucked away on a walking path around quiet Lake Atwood, about 30 miles north of Colby and I-70 in the northwest corner of Kansas.

While you're there: Explore small museums, forts, cabins and other reminders of pioneer days in northwest Kansas. In September, more than 1,000 vendors participate in the U.S.-36 Treasure Hunt, a 400-mile yard sale stretching along the state's northern tier, including Atwood.

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