If you are a fan of covered bridges – I have news for you. The largest concentration of covered bridges in America is in Ashtabula County, Ohio, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Erie. There are nineteen bridges on the tour, featuring the longest and shortest in the United States. On the second week-end of October each year there is a Covered Bridge Festival. The bridge tour is well-marked, but occasionally you may miss a turn, start from a different place than the map indicates, or decide to go it alone. That said, be prepared with a good road map of northern Ohio, physical addresses of each bridge, a cooler of snacks, and a camera. The fun is about to begin. Join me for a quick trip along the country lanes of Ashtaluba County, Ohio on a covered bridge tour.
Covered Bridge Tour
I am not a fan of crowds, so I visited the bridges a day before the festival. My enjoyment is in walking quietly across history, strolling along the roads leading up to the bridges, standing quietly in the middle and listening to the sounds of the forest, the rippling waters below, and just being still. There were a few like-minded folks we met along our journey, but for the most part, we had the bridges and the roads to ourselves. There were a few venders beginning to set up their wares along the roads, but it was not obtrusive to our visit.
Smolen-Gulf, The Longest Covered Bridge in the United States
The Smolen-Gulf is 613′ long and is 93′ above the river. There is a beautiful park at the Smolen Gulf Bridge. Picnic facilities and restrooms are available.
As you enter the park at the top of the hill you will have a view of the valley and be able to appreciate the scenery along the river. Plan to have a picnic lunch beside the river, hike across the Riverview Pedestrian Bridge, and wade in the water. The Riverview is a small version of the Smolen-Gulf. This is a beautiful backdrop to slow down and think deep thoughts, or think of nothing at all.
Riverview Covered Bridge
West Liberty Street Bridge – the Shortest Covered Bridge in the United States
On the tour you will also visit the shortest covered bridge in America; the West Liberty Bridge at Geneva, Ohio. There is a very small park at the bridge that gives information regarding the construction. We drove across the bridge and thought we had somehow missed it, then realized, “this is it!” I love miniatures, but this almost didn’t qualify as a covered bridge as far as the romance of an old rustic bridge across a creek or river. However, the city of Geneva seems to be pretty proud of it, and it was unique.
The Harpersfield Bridge – Second Longest Bridge in Ohio
Windsor Mill Bridge
The most scenic bridge on my tour was the yellow Windsor Mill Bridge. It being the final bridge on the tour, we arrived just at sunset. The leaves had just begun turning golden and as I snapped my picture, the sun hit those yellow leaves just right. My husband hiked down a steep incline to the creek-bed and took several pictures of the water, rocks, and underside of the bridge. This would be a bridge I’d like to revisit and enjoy a bit of time to hike and explore the surrounding woods.
Nineteen bridges in a twenty-four hour period was a bit ambitious, but we were able to see all but #4 (Graham Bridge). The tour only covers 69 miles, but it is partly gravel roads, partly getting lost or making a wrong turn, and partly wanting the time to explore, hike, picnic and reminisce of days gone by. It is about capturing the essence of a by-gone era when transportation didn’t involve going 70 miles per hour to arrive at a destination.
Olin Bridge – My Personal Favorite on this Tour
My favorite bridge was #10 on the tour, Olin Bridge. The minute the bridge came into view, I knew this was “my” bridge. Have you ever seen a sight that so completely rested the turbulence in your soul, quieted the restlessness of your spirit, and calmed your thoughts that just moments before had been racing through things on your “to do list”? That is what happened at Olin Bridge.
There was an absence of human noise. Standing quietly, reverently, I heard only the rippling, gurgling water trickling over a bed of rocks beneath the bridge. The calls of birds as they sang their afternoon praises echoed through the forest, and the brushing of the tree branches as they let go their leaves, raining them upon the ground and forming a crunchy, carpeted path. It was perfect! It was what my thirsty, dry soul needed. Be still my soul. I wanted to sing out, “Oh magnify the Lord with me, let us exalt His name together”, but I didn’t have to say a word. Sheldon was experiencing the same thing and together we stood in the presence of God, and truly worshipped Him.
Have you visited the Ashtabula Covered bridge Festival? I would love to see your pictures and hear from you the best time to go see them again. Remember, get a good map and the physical addresses before you go.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:
There are very few places with restrooms along the journey.
Fill your gas tank before you set out – almost no stations along the journey
Take along bottled water and snacks