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Covered Bridge Festival
See the Covered Bridges in Indiana
There are approximately 90 covered bridges throughout Indiana, but Parke County in southwest Indiana has the largest concentration of them with 34 (or so) still standing. The first of the covered bridges built in the area were constructed in the mid-1800s. Although many had to be reconstructed over the years due to flooding and arson, some have stood for over a century.
Visitors to the area can see the bridges at any time of course, but the covered bridge festival occurs in October each year for 10 days.
On this page you can learn a bit more about the bridges, the covered bridge festival, and enjoy a few photos of the area.
About the Covered Bridges
In the 1800's, bridges were often wooden structures. Readily available poplar could be used for the sides and roof, while oak was better for the supporting structure. Keeping these wooden structures protected from excess moisture and rotting was the purpose of enclosing these bridges.
In the rural area of Parke county, traffic is light and the bridges span only small creeks thus many of these structures can therefore handle modern cars and trucks. Twenty of the bridges in fact, are still open for use. Clearly however, the bridges support only one lane traffic. The other remaining bridges can be crossed only on foot.
One of the oldest bridges along the tour route includes the Portland Mills bridge which is 130 feet long and was built in 1856. This bridge lies between Waveland and Milligan, Indiana, well off the marked tour route. It's current site is not it's original location however. Crooks Bridge is also among the oldest structures as it was also built in 1856. It's 132' span crosses Little Raccoon Creek southeast of Rockville.
The West Union Bridge is the longest of these covered bridges at 315'. This one is not open to vehicular traffic as the road is no longer used or maintained. It lies several miles south of Tangier.
Phillips Bridge is the shortest along the route at 43' long. It's positioned just southeast of Montezuma.
Probably the most frequently visited bridges however are the Bridgeton and Mansfield bridges based on the fact that they are located in towns that celebrate a variety of festivals and attract visitors for their history in general. Both towns also have mills which were a primary enterprise in the 1800's and 1900's as the coal industry in the area was winding down.
The Bridgeton structure was first built in 1868. Arson claimed the bridge in 2005 however, and it has since been reconstructed. The bridge in Mansfield was originally constructed in 1867. The mills in Mansfield and Bridgeton are in operating condition and interesting sites as well.
Seeing the Bridges
Visitors who wish to see the covered bridges can do this by following a self guided tour. This self-guided tour can obviously be done at any time and on your own schedule. Maps are available in Rockville at the Tourist Information Center. The routes are indicated by colored arrows posted on road signs and telephone poles along the route and match up with the colored map provided. Many of the bridges lie on small country roads adjacent to the tour route, so finding them requires a bit of exploration.
As a word of caution for those who choose to complete the tour independently: be sure to follow the map in the direction it indicates. The routes are generally a loop, and if you choose to drive the course in reverse, you may have difficulty finding your way as the route is marked along the roadway only in the direction indicated by the map.
Of course the other option is to take the tour bus and leave the driving to local experts. Of course, this option is only available during the period of the Covered Bridge Festival. I prefer the self-guided tour because I love driving the small meandering roads and experiencing the seculsion of the rural area, but the tour bus can certainly prevent any frustration.
The Covered Bridge Festival
The Covered Bridge Festival is one of many annual events held in Parke County. It occurs for 10 days starting on the 2nd Friday in October. Rockville, Indiana is the headquarters for the event and it's here, among many other sites around the county, where you can pick up a map of the bridges and other sites/activites which are occurring in any given year. There is a variety of entertainment, food, crafts, and other activities near the courthouse in Rockville, as well as some of the surrounding communities.
Beyond Rockville, the communities of Bloomingdale, Mecca, Bridgeton, Montezuma, Mansfield, Rosedale, and Tangier offer a rest stop and chance to shop for crafts and similar items. Billie Creek Village is a re-creation of a late 1800's/early 1900's village and is another popular stop along the route.
The crowd can be overwhelming in these tiny towns during the time of the festival, but the tour route itself generally isn't too bad. My personal experience is that the crowds around the mills and bridges of Mansfield and Bridgeton are particularly heavy. If you're hoping for lighter traffic, a visit during the "work week" is the best option. The small towns along the route can be an attraction themselves and some offer a glimpse of area history beyond their bridges and mills. Because of the timing of the festival, the foliage is also a bit of an attraction as the turning leaves are beginning to appear.
Beyond the festival, there are state parks, recreation areas, and some lakes nearby as well a number of family farms.
How to Get More Information
If the Covered Bridge Festival sounds like your cup of tea, or if you would just like to tour the covered bridges on your own some time, then here is how to obtain more information or a map:
or Visit: www.coveredbridges.com
There are inns, motels, cabins, and campgrounds located in the nearby area for those who wish to stay. One of these maps will provide additional information about this.
A Look Around the Area Surrounding the Covered Bridge FestivalClick thumbnail to view full-size
Find Rockville, Indiana - Here's Where You Can Start Your Tour of the Covered Bridges
Books of Interest
- Billie Creek Village
You'll find a covered bridge and, in fact, and entire recreated turn-of-the-century village here.
- Mansfield Mill and Covered Bridge
Learn more about the Mansfield Roller Mill, covered bridge and all of their festivals.
- The Bridgeton Mill and Covered Bridge
Learn more about the Bridgeton Grist Mill, covered bridge, and related festivals/events.
- Parke County
Discover what there is to see and do in Parke County.
- Covered Bridges
All about the Parke County covered bridges, the family farms, maple syrup festival and more.