Along with my daughter, I made a trip to northern Iowa to visit family. I’ve traveled I-35 South many a time coming home from the Amana Colonies. On each of my many trips, I’ve seen the signs to stop and visit the Bridges of Madison County as well as the John Wayne home in Winterset, Iowa. Until yesterday, I’d never taken the time to stop. And though cloudy, the sun popped out often enough that I thought the forecasters were wrong about those terrible thunderstorms they had promised and I didn’t worry too much about racing toward home. When the exit number appeared, we turned off and didn’t have to go far before we caught sight of the first covered bridge. It’s called the Imes Bridge and was constructed in 1870 and it is situated at the outskirts of St. Charles, Iowa.
We stopped at the old Presbyterian Church which is now a visitor center and picked up a map in order to locate the remaining five bridges. Now, for those of you who know me, that map was pretty useless. And I have to tell you—my daughter has inherited my sense of direction which means we both get lost trying to fight our way out of a paper bag. Still, we felt adventurous and, map in hand, drove down the highway while scoffing at the fellow who’d told us it would take a couple of hours to visit all six covered bridges. A couple of hours? We giggled and agreed it couldn’t take more than forty-five minutes—an hour at most.
On our way to Winterset, we missed the turnoff for the Holliwell Covered Bridge, but vowed we’d catch it on the way back. (Needless to say, we never found that road again). We finally drove into Winterset where one of the bridges was supposedly located in a park. When we didn’t immediately find it after circling the town several times, we stopped for a photo-op at the John Wayne statue and also took a picture of his home. Once again, we circled the town and then decided to stop and asked directions—the map was no help. Soon we arrived at the park and located the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge which was constructed in 1870 (same as the Imes). While there, we saw a sign pointing up a road to “Clark’s Tower or King’s Castle.” Need I say more? We couldn’t pass up a castle.
The road was narrow, winding and far higher than we’d anticipated, but we finally made it. Although a bit small to be called a castle, we were impressed to find it sitting up there all by itself and both of us climbed to the top of the tower for a look around. With trees in bloom during the spring or fall, I’m sure the view is amazing. Once we made the downward ascent, we stopped at the Cedar Bridge, since it’s the only one you can actually drive through. Although it was constructed in 1883, it was destroyed by arson in 2002 and a replica was dedicated on October 9, 2004.
By this time, we’d used up more than two hours and decided our scoffing had been misplaced. We also decided we weren’t going to make it to the remaining three bridges. We didn’t see Roseman Bridge which was the bridge used in the movie, The Bridges of Madison County, but we get a picture of the rock bridge that was in the film. After stopping at a grocery store for yet more directions on how to get back to the highway, we headed off to I-35. You’ll remember I mentioned thunderstorms had been forecast. Well, we ran straight into a horrific thunderstorm. I couldn’t see a car length in front of me for a period of time, and then we were held up in traffic TWO times due to accidents. It was a very long trip home, but I’m glad we took time to visit the bridges and take pictures with “The Duke.”
May you find joy as you take time to experience a piece of history and the beauty of God’s creation. ~Judy