Indiana is well known for its covered bridges – 98 still stand across the state. The largest and most famous concentration of them is in Parke County. You can spend many enjoyable hours driving around Indiana seeing them all; you can still drive across a few of them.

But seldom do you get to see one, um, undressed.

Medora Covered Bridge

This is the Medora Covered Bridge, and it’s undergoing restoration. It was built in 1875 by J. J. Daniels, one of the leading covered bridge builders in the state. With three spans, at 431 feet, 10 inches, it is the longest covered bridge in the United States. You’ll find it in Jackson County, Indiana, just east of the town of Medora on State Road 235. This road was once US 50.

Medora Covered Bridge

Those curved beams in the bridge identify it as a Burr arch truss bridge. Engineers disagree about whether the arch bears the load and the Howe truss (the vertical and angled beams) provide stability or vice-versa. But one thing’s for sure – combining the arch with the Howe truss gives a stronger bridge than either alone.

Medora Covered Bridge

Can you imagine how dark this bridge must be when its roof is complete and the sides are attached? Given that and my general nervousness about driving on wooden bridges, I’m very happy that this bridge was retired from service in 1972. (This photo shows the bridge while it was still in service.) I’ll drive over the modern UCEB (ugly concrete eyesore bridge) next to it, thank you. But I’m eager to return after the restoration is complete so I can walk it end to end.

Wanna see more old bridges? Then check out the Wheeling Suspension Bridge and the massive stone arch Casselman River bridge.

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15 responses to “Seeing through the Medora Covered Bridge”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar

    Holy snappin’, define “rustic”. :D I’ve never in all my life seen a wooden arch bridge before; I didn’t even think that was possible. I would have thought that would be the launch to some O’Henry story about a place where trees grow in a circle. :)

    It’s spectacular! I wish there were something like that around here. What a shame there’s a modern bridge right beside it to spoil the view. But that said, you got some magnificent shots of it on its own without the new one ruining it. If it weren’t for the bobcat in the shot you could swear it was a colour photo from the 1950s or an establishing shot from Ode to Billy Joe or something.

    Actually, it’s a real shame they’re putting sides (back?) on it. It looks striking and singular like that!

    1. Jim Avatar

      The reason that covered bridges are covered (sides and a roof) is to protect the trusses. The siding and roofing are not integral and are easily replaced as they rot away. The trusses, of course, being integral are much harder to replace.

      My dad made handcrafted furniture for a living for many years, and I remember very clearly some large curved display cases he made for a museum. The wood started out straight — he curved it himself — it is very possible to do that.

      My favorite covered bridge is in Bridgeton, northeast of Terre Haute. It was destroyed by arson some years ago but was rebuilt. This post shows the new bridge, another Burr arch truss type.

      Meanwhile, you do have one lonely covered bridge in Ontario. It’s east of Elmira:

      1. Kaitlin Avatar

        I have also been taught that covered bridges are covered for added stability of the trusses, in addition to protecting the structure from the elements.

        1. Jim Avatar

          Thanks for the tip!

  2. vanilla Avatar

    That is one spectacularly long bridge! Much as we might appreciate esthetics, UCEBs have their uses.

    1. Jim Avatar

      UCEBs are utilitarian appliances. They do the job. They just have no romance, no penache.

      1. Lone Primate Avatar

        Yeah. I admire the design and the strength and utility, but it’s hard for me to imagine people a century from now getting excited about road decking with 3’6″ crash barriers along the side.

  3. Kat Wilder Avatar

    I’m up for seeing just about anything naked, people, bridges…

    I love these kinds of bridges. Why do they have a romanticism to them (nothing to do with “Bridges of Madison County,” mind you!)?

    1. Jim Avatar

      I think that anything with a design that shows a human touch can create such feelings. In contrast, standard modern highway bridges look like they were designed by computers and built by robots.

  4. Bernie Kasper Avatar

    That is really neat Jim, been to Medora but don’t remember that !!

    1. Jim Avatar

      It’s on SR 235 east of town.

  5. Sandy Avatar

    Very nice post Jim! My best friend and I have recently started a covered Bridge hunt… We live in Indiana and saw 53 of the 98 bridges still standing in our state. We are in total awe of them and can’t get enough of them. Nothing like driving around in the country side trying to find a bridge (some of them are tricky to find) and admiring the beauty of the landscape and the work and effort put into (re)building those bridges… Sadly, we never made it to Medora Bridge but if we’re ever in Jackson County again, you bet will go check it out. Our next step is to tackle Ohio and see some of the covered bridges there… What if anything do you know or have experienced about covered bridges in Ohio?

    1. Jim Avatar

      Hi Sandy – Thanks for chiming in. Yes, some of the bridges are tricky to find! I explored many of the old bridges in Putnam County a couple years ago and found navigating its crooked country roads to be challenging. As for Ohio, I haven’t really explored it much, except for a trip across it on the National Road (more or less US 40). No covered bridges there!

      1. Sandy Avatar

        Thanks Jim. It was worth asking… And yes, those back roads in Putnam County, IN are quite a challenge to navigate, but this is how we’re creating memories. We ended up having some good laughs about us being ‘lost’ in the middle of nowhere.
        How about PA covered brides? That will be our 3rd state to tackle, and even though we still have time, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

        1. Jim Avatar

          Unfortunately, no. Have you ever looked at It’s a wonderful resource for discovering and locating great old bridges. I use it for this all the time!

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