I read The Bridges of Madison County in high school, and it’s a quick read–so quick, in fact, that I read the whole thing in the bath tub one night. I was a little pruney, so I don’t recommend doing that, but the short novel is a worthy addition to your reading list. If you’re a Meryl Streep fan, you’ve most likely seen the 1995 film that’s based on the book and was shot here in Madison County, just south of Des Moines.
So, for my second Iowa film “field trip”, I printed out a map of the covered bridges and movie sites and hit the road with my camera. (Clint Eastwood would approve.)
First stop: Imes Bridge (1870), St. Charles. This is the oldest of the remaining covered bridges.
Holliwell Bridge (1880) was featured in the 1995 film, and it’s the longest of the bunch. A lot of the bridges have been renovated over the years and moved to different spots, but this bridge is still in its original spot in Winterset.
The Cutler-Donahoe Bridge (1870), is located in Winterset’s City Park, where I took a slight detour down a scary one-way road into the woods…
…and many miles later, just as I grew concerned over not telling anyone where I was going, the trees finally opened up to this delightful limestone tower. (Clark Tower)
There’s a great view from the top, and really, who doesn’t love a little mini-castle in the middle of nowhere?!
Winterset is basically the Midwestern equivalent of Stars Hollow, complete with a very cute town square full of shops: pharmacy, café, antique store, bakery…you get the idea.
I stopped for lunch at Northside Café, also featured in The Bridges of Madison County, and I highly recommend the following comfort food: fried cheese curds and chicken tenders. Ah, Midwestern fare at its best.
Oh yes, it turns out Winterset is also the birthplace of John Wayne.
I decided to forgo the John Wayne Museum and finish up my bridge tour.
Roseman Bridge (1883), is featured in both the book and film versions of The Bridges of Madison County.
It’s also apparently haunted, so it wasn’t creepy at all to walk through by myself.
I confess, dear readers, that once you’ve seen one bridge you’ve seen ’em all. At this point, the last two bridges were in opposite directions, so I decided to cut one out and finish my tour with the bridge featured on the cover of the novel: Cedar Bridge (1883).
This was the last bridge open to vehicles, and I thought it was only appropriate to end my tour by driving over (through?) one. (You can walk over the others, but they are blocked off for cars and don’t lead anywhere.)
There’s a Covered Bridge Festival every October, but you can take guided tours or print out your own map any time of year. (More info here.) Warning: prepare for miles of gravel roads and lots of tourists doing the same thing as you!