Most people have heard of the 1995 movie, The Bridges of Madison County, starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. Some of you may know the movie was filmed here in Iowa. Less than a one hour drive south west of Des Moines. We live in the Des Moines area and we were having another dreary January day, so off to the bridges we went! It had been snowing on and off all week so we were hoping the snow would make for some good pictures and a bit of adventure.
The Covered Bridges of Madison County, Iowa
Madison County, Iowa originally had 19 covered bridges. The bridges generally were given the named after the family who lived closest to the bridge. Notably, 6 are now remaining, with this in mind, our plan was to see them all! Popular in the 19th century, the purpose of covered bridges was to expand the life of the bridge. By covering the bridge with a roof, it saved weather damage on the trusses and the decking of the bridge. As a result, this prevented rot and damage.
Madison County Bridges are mostly located around the county seat of Winterset. I can’t count the number of times I have driven past Winterset on the Interstate and did not go and explore the bridges. The area around Winterset is really quite pretty. Very hilly with trees and streams adding to the landscape. Incidentally, Winterset is the birthplace of John Wayne!!
The first of the bridges we came across in Madison County was the Imes Bridge. Located just east of town of St. Charles, Iowa. Built in 1879, this bridge is the oldest of the remaining ones. This is the easiest bridge to visit and locate. When you first look at the bridge from the side, it looks like it is about to fall over, but when you look at it head on, you can see it is solid and standing upright.
Next we drove to the Holliwell Bridge. Built in 1880, and is the longest covered bridge in Iowa. This bridge is seen in the movie The Bridges of Madison County. This bridge is about 2 miles south east of the town of Winterset and while at its original location it is not in use and bypassed by the road.
Built in 1870, this bridge is located in the town of Winterset at the city park and not in use. This bridge also looks crooked from the side but is standing up straight when you look from the front.
The Roseman Bridge is 7.5 miles south west of Winterset, and built in 1883. This bridge still stands at its original location. Rumor is that this is a haunted bridge. The story goes that a couple of sherifs were chasing a man. The man went into in the bridge and bystanders heard an awful scream. The man never came out of the bridge, nor was he in the bridge. He just disappeared and now haunts the bridge.
I loved the location of this bridge in a hilly area surrounded by trees and it was a pretty drive. We really enjoyed trekking around in the snow here. It is no longer in use as a bypass road keeps traffic off of it. Featured in both the novel and film of The Bridges of Madison County, it is a beautiful bridge.
Built in 1884 this bridge is also at its original location and is 4 miles north west of the town of Winterset. Like the rest of the bridges it is no longer in use. Hogback Bridge is not named after a family, instead, the name comes from the ridge above it. It is also a very pretty drive and location.
In 2003, people saw smoke coming from this bridge. The smoke originated from a fire and thankfully put out with minimal damage. Thought to be set by arsonists, but no arrests were made.
The Cedar Bridge is one of the bridges in the novel and movie, The Bridges of Madison County. Located 3 miles northeast of Winterset and in Cedar Bridge Park. Above all, this is the only bridge you can drive across. Originally built in 1883. In 2002, the Cedar Bridge was destroyed by fire set my arsonists and rebuilt in 2004. Furthermore, in 2007, the Cedar Bridge was again destroyed by arsonists and again rebuilt. Due to the fires, all the bridges now have automatic heat sensitive extinguishers in them.
McBride Bridge Ruins
The McBride Bridge is located 7 miles Northeast of Winterset. Built in 1871 and still in use until it was burned by an arsonist in 1983. Only a bit of the foundation remains. All in all, this was by far the hardest bridge to find as there are no signs and you have to follow dirt roads. My husband humored me and we went looking for it. Of course I think he was enjoying the back roads and 4 wheel driving through the snow more than he was actually looking for bridge ruins. This bridge does not show up on Google Maps. I felt like I had some pretty good map skills when we actually found the ruins!! Click here to follow the map I found online.
Here are my directions on finding the ruins. Take hwy 169 north from Winterset then turn east on G4R (Cummings Road). After a few miles the road turns north, keep following and the road will turn east. Just after turning east look for McBride Road and turn north on it. Follow McBride road. After driving over a small stream there will be a right turn and shortly after a left. Don’t turn either way even though it looks like you should. Instead go straightish and slightly downhill (remember these are country roads). McBride Bridge ruins are on the left side of the road before the concrete bridge. You have to look closely as the ruins are down in a gully. If it wasn’t winter, I do not think we would have been able to see the ruins through trees and grass in bloom.
John Wayne Birthplace and Museum
In addition, Winterset is also where John Wayne was born. The museum and home appeared closed but I did snap a couple of pictures.
If you are looking for a day trip while in Iowa, think about exploring the covered bridges of Madison County Iowa. Just a short hour from Des Moines and not too far off the interstate, it is easy to find. I will have to return in the summer or fall to see how different the bridges look without the snow and maybe check out John Wayne’s house as well!
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42 thoughts on “The Bridges of Madison County”
Way cool! I had a chance to see most of the covered bridges in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Definitely worth the trip to see the amazing architecture of covered bridges – I will keep these on our list for future travels.
It was fun!! Definitely what we needed to get out and about in Iowa this winter!!! I had not realized how close they were to Des Moines!!
Nice photos! The shapes are more contemporary than I expected, maybe it’s the flat roof.
From what I read about the bridges is they used a type of construction called Town-Truss that is a lattice style of construction that holds the bridge up without heavy stones or large beams. Maybe this is why the roof is flat. I’m not sure though!!
So cool! Great shots and great experience!
Thanks! It was a great way to get away from a cooped up week of winter!!!!
Great post! I would love to do the road trip!
Thanks!! What’s great is it is close to Des Moines which has great places to stay and eat!!
Fabulous covered bridges!
I thought they were pretty cool!! Fun walking around in the snow too!!
Seriously cool 😎
Nice post! We love that you’re getting out and about in snowy weather to share your travels. Keep up the good work!!
Thank you! Wish there were more places closer to home!!! Although you never know what you might find!!
Love the covered bridges. Glad some of them remain. Did not know John Wayne was born in Iowa. Always thought he was from the Wild West. Thanks for sharing. Allan
Thanks!! I tried to picture John Wayne there but riding his horse through the bridges just wasn’t the same as riding out in the Wild West canyons!!! Lol!!!
Thank you for such a complete collection of covered bridges. I have never seen this tunnel type of bridges. The framing Inside seems very beautiful.
Thanks for your kind words! They are amazing!! The design is called town truss and has a lattice structure framing and is designed to hold up without large beams.
I love covered bridges!
Really nice. I visited a few summers ago when it was shirt sleeve weather. The bridges are so unique and fun to visit anytime. But I wasn’t aware of the burned out one. Also, be happy with your John Wayne photos, they don’t allow photographs taken inside the residence. Found that out quickly. You two get around. It’s what I’m looking forward some day. jerry
Well I’m glad I got what John Wayne photos I could!! I bet the bridges are lovely in spring and fall! We do like to go. We are going to try and make it to Clear Lake’s Colouring the Sky Sat the 15th and maybe check out the Surf Ballroom!!
So! So! Beautiful! The snow is such a wonderful contrast with the bridges and your Jeep! 🙂
Wonderful covered bridges ~ thanks for sharing!
Thanks for checking out the post!!
For some reason I always thought covered bridges were a New England thing. I didn’t realize there were so many of them in Iowa. Thanks for sharing.
I think of New England when it comes to covered bridges as well! These are all fairly close to each other and I am not sure if just this area of Iowa built these or if these are the only ones still standing. I haven’t heard of others but maybe up in the Amish area of Iowa there are some.
great photos. and while the snow adds a nice quality, I think I’d prefer to visit in the summer!
I agree! I would rather visit in the summer as well!!
So interesting and lovely shots. The Roseman bridge gave me the chills, just reading about it! Great post!
Thanks! It was a fun place to visit!
Love that you saw these in the snow!
It was fun!!!
Been there! My Mom was born and raised close by.
Still one of my wife’s fav films, quite touching from what I remember, Lori 😊 Interesting there’s still so many & how practical they really were (are) 😊
They were all pretty spectacular! I think it’s nice they are close to where we live and I can go check them out in better weather!
I bet spring’ll be a really nice time, though tromping through the snow sounded kinda fun 😊
I would think so!! Maybe fall too! Tramping through the snow was fun !!
Fall colors round the Bridges of Madison County – a title waiting to be filled 😊
This is a gorgeous post! So many photos suitable for framing, for sure. Even if we had visited Madison County, it’s unlikely that we would be there during a snow. So, thanks especially for posting this — it’s a sight we would never have seen otherwise.
I’m glad you liked it!!