History, Preservation, Road Trips

Seeing through the Medora Covered Bridge

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.

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 thoughts on “Seeing through the Medora Covered Bridge

  1. 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!

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    • 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.

      https://jimgrey.wordpress.com/2007/02/13/restored-in-bridgeton/

      Meanwhile, you do have one lonely covered bridge in Ontario. It’s east of Elmira: http://www.dalejtravis.com/bridge/canada/htm/5905001.htm

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  2. 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!)?

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    • 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.

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  3. Sandy says:

    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?

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    • 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!

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      • Sandy says:

        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.

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

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