The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

The Bridges of Madison County

Published Saturday, August 11th, 2012 in Iowa · « · »

I’m sure I never would have thought of going to Madison County had I not seen the movie The Bridges of Madison County. But I did see the movie and ever since I’ve been wanting to visit the rolling, corn-blanketed hills of central Iowa to see for myself the beautiful landscape and covered bridges after which the movie—and novel—are named.

My trip to Madison County was short and poorly planned. Spur of the moment, you might say. I set out from the Chicago area around noon on Friday afternoon and drove the five long hours it takes to get to to Des Moines on the bottom half of a tank of gas and the smaller portion of a leftover vegetarian-on-six-grain sandwich from Eloise Chicago. In my mind, I had rosy memories of a previous drive to Des Moines. In my mind, I was convinced it would be not that bad but in reality, it was exactly that bad. I should have left early in the morning and I should have powered the journey on a full stomach and an topped-up tank of gas.

Hogback Covered Bridge, built 1884

As further evidence of my poor planning, I was oblivious to the fact that my trip coincided with the start of the Iowa State Fair. I did wonder, when booking a hotel, why the heck Des Moines was so busy. It seemed the only rooms in town were at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. Since prices were reasonable there, I thought no more about it and simply booked a room.

Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge, built 1870.

Madison County was once home to 19 covered bridges. But today only a handful remain—six to be precise, all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Of the six remaining bridges, only Roseman, Holliwell and Hogback inhabit in their original locations. Cedar, Imes and Cutler-Donahoe bridges were all relocated.

Roseman Covered Bridge, built 1883
Interior of Holliwell Covered Bridge
Holliwell Covered Bridge, built 1880
Birthplace of John Wayne
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