Built to shelter wooden bridges from weather elements, and to allow farmers with cattle to cross safely, covered bridges — bridges with roofs– were once commonplace in Wisconsin. At one time, the state boasted nearly 40. Although many bridges have been destroyed or dismantled, a handful of these historic treasures endure, many in parks and along bike trails.
Kickapoo Valley Reserve, La Farge
The Kickapoo Valley Reserve, 8,600 acres of hiking trails, canoeing and bird-watching, also includes Bridge Number 18, a pretty lattice bridge with a red-orange roof. The reserve is situated in bucolic Vernon County in Wisconsin’s Driftless Region, an area of the state filled with breathtaking bluffs.
Clarence Covered Bridge
The Clarence Covered Bridge, over Norwegian Creek in Brodhead (near New Glarus), was built in 1984 as a replica of the original bridge, which was built in the mid-1800s. Every August, the community of Brodhead holds Covered Bridge Days, a festival to honor the architectural gem.
Covered Bridge, Covered Bridge Park
intersection of 1700 Cedar Creek and Covered Bridge Roads, Cedarburg
Built in 1876, Cedarburg’s Covered Bridge in Covered Bridge Park is one of the oldest in Wisconsin. Made of oak and pine and featuring superb craftsmanship, this lattice truss bridge was originally used for vehicle traffic. Now, it’s just for pedestrians. In 1973, Covered Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Elroy Pedestrian Covered Bridge
The Elroy Bridge, on the 12.5 mile Omaha bike trail near the Elroy-Sparta State Trail, features open-lattice construction and was built in 1998.
Glacial River Trail Covered Bridge
Built to resemble a barn, this cheerful red bridge, built in 2000 with wood from an actual barn dating back to the early 1900s, offers a welcome sight for bikers along the 39-mile Glacial River Trail.
Horton Covered Bridge
Amnicon Falls State Park, 4279 County Hwy U, South Range
Known as a bowstring bridge for its diagonal cables, the Horton Covered Bridge in northern Wisconsin’s scenic Amnicon Falls State Park, was designed by Charles M. Horton in the late 1800s and built in 1930.
Red Mill Bridge
The quaint Red Mill Bridge, over Waupaca’s Crystal River, leads visitors to The Red Mill, an 1855 renovated grist mill which now houses a coffee shop, gift shop and ice cream shop. Weddings are held at the nearby Chapel in the Woods.
Grant Park, 100 Hawthorne Ave., South Milwaukee
Although only a partially covered structure, Grant Park’s picturesque bridge, which begins the Seven Bridges Trail, is worth noting. Its entrance, built like a Bavarian home out of dark wood, with a carved inscription that reads “Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature,” is straight out of a Grimms’ fairy tale.
Smith Rapids Covered Bridge
Rustic Road 105, Park Falls
The attractive wooden Smith Rapids Bridge, built in 1991, is located in the lush Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Price County in northern Wisconsin, an ideal spot for hiking, canoeing and other outdoor activities. The bridge’s roof has been replaced twice, in 1941 due to weather conditions, and in 1971 when it was destroyed by arson.
Springwater Volunteer Covered Bridge
24th Lane, Saxeville
Although built in 1997, this sturdy wooden bridge, constructed and paid for by local volunteers nostalgic for the original bridge, echoes the past. Surrounded by tall trees and a garden, the Springwater bridge is ideal to visit on a clear summer day.