The absolute romantic charm that Clint Eastwood’s Robert Kincaid and Meryl Streep’s Francesca Johnson wove in the iconic movie The Bridges of Madison County is something that is still indelibly etched in our hearts and memories. This 1995 romance was set against the backdrop of Madison County in Iowa, which helped in creating that aura of old-world charm that the movie so effortlessly exudes. And, we have an itinerary for you to visit each of these unique and rare covered bridges all in The ‘Covered Bridge Capital of Iowa’ on the west of the Mississippi. By Shubhanjana Das
1. Cedar Bridge
Winterset, Iowa is home to as many as six covered bridges and is known for having the most number of covered bridges at one place. All set on rural roads, the Cedar Bridge was built in 1883 and is the shortest of them all. And most importantly, this is the bridge that features on the cover of the books of The Bridges of Madison County and is also the one Francesca visits with Robert to watch him photograph it. Built originally over the North River, it was later moved to Cedar Creek. Cedar Bridge is only 76-feet long and is located in an idyllic little park called the Cedar Bridge Park, perfect for a movie-like picnic. However, the bridge experienced damage by arson in 2017 and is no longer present there. Building a replica is on the charts.
2. Imes Bridge
The dusty roads of the Midwest lead you to yet another of the six bridges — the Imes Bridge. The visually striking red and white bridge set against the backdrop of the azure of the County sky is the ‘Gateway to the Bridges’, as a sign on it reads clearly. Built in 1870 over the Middle River, it is the oldest of them all. The pitched roof of the Imes differentiates it from the rest and lets sunshine in from the side rafters, making it perfect for some photography. However, the Imes Bridge did not feature in the book or the movie.
3. Holliwell Bridge
Built in 1880, the Holliwell Bridge is 122-feet and the longest of them all. It sits majestically over the Middle River and with its rustic red and its covered beam is a sight to behold. In the movie, the Holliwell Bridge is where Francesca watches Robert photograph the bridge after they go back to her place where Robert spends the night. The good news is the bridge still stands intact in its original position till date.
4. Cutler Donahoe Bridge
Looking at all these iconic bridges, we aren’t surprised why the people of Iowa celebrate The Madison County Covered Bridges Festival so boisterously, inviting visitors to celebrate these rare bridges. One of them is the Cutler Donahoe bridge built in 1870. It was originally set near the town of Bevington but then moved to Winterset’s City Park in 1970 where it is present till date. Even though the bridge didn’t make it to the movie, Winterset City Park was where they had a picnic together. It’s worth a visit nonetheless.
5. Hogback Bridge
Built in 1884, the Hogback bridge is the Northernmost bridge of them all and still stands in its original state. With a river flowing beneath it, the Hogback bridge is reminiscent of the Holliwell even though with this one, you will find yourself in the middle of nowhere given that it is quite secluded from the rest of the five bridges. What makes this bridge a worthy visit? The Hogback Dreamer Journal, which is kept hanging from a chain on the right side of the bridge. Visitors are welcome to pen down their life’s greatest dreams and also read the ones written by previous travellers.
6. Roseman Bridge
The Roseman bridge, built in 1883, is the one Robert asks Francesca the directions for when they meet for the first time. Francesca accompanies him to show the bridge before Robert takes some trial shots and they go back to her place for dinner. Later, Francesca goes back to the Roseman bridge to leave a note inviting him to dinner again. Robert goes back at sunrise and finds the note. In the movie, this is where Francesca asks her ashes to be scattered in her will, much to the surprise of her children who eventually comply to her wishes after coming to terms with her affair with Robert. Interesting fact: the bridge, having been renovated prior to the film, was made to look older and duller for the shooting. The Roseman Covered Bridge Gift Shop sells souvenirs, wines, and local goods among other items.