With Mother Nature on my side during Ohio State's Spring Break, I decided to venture to somewhere new in Ohio. I feigned jealousy as I said goodbye to all my friends who were heading south for the week. I couldn’t wait to explore nature, get my historical fix and find some covered bridges.
Ohio used to be home to over 3,000 covered bridges in the 19th century before iron and steel started replacing the wooden beams. The sense of nostalgia that these bridges emit is breathtaking even in photographs, so I had to check them out in person.
Less than 150 covered bridges exist in Ohio today, which is much less impressive than the original 3,000, but it makes me all the more determined to find what gems remain. For my first outing, I opted upon the two-hour drive to Washington County (Marietta) in Southeast Ohio where there is a 44-mile stretch of highway along Ohio Route 26 that cuts through the Wayne National Forest. For a list of counties and their accompanying bridges visit Ohio Barns.
I have two very simple, but imperative tips for those who wish to venture onto Route 26: Have a light breakfast and an alert mind. In other words, one doesn’t need to travel across the United States to visit California’s Pacific Coast Highway. We have our very own windy, hilly Midwest rural roadway. The roller-coaster-like drive is visually stunning, with its lush fields and rustic farms. It is ideal for photographers, or those who just want to get away from a bustling city life. Route 26 follows alongside the Little Muskingum River.
Along my journey, I sought out three covered bridges. The first was the bucolic Hune Bridge, which was built in 1879. Not 50 feet or so from the bridge, lays a small, secluded campground. This campground is free and open all year round.
The next bridge I traveled to was the Rinard Covered Bridge, which has been renovated three times. It doesn’t have the nostalgic charm of the other bridges because of its newer appearance, but still provides for a lovely snapshot. Inside the bridge are windows that overlook the river below; looking through a window one sees a "portrait" that could have been the subject for a Hudson River School Painting.
The last bridge (and my favorite) was the Knowlton Covered Bridge. This sits back about a quarter of a mile off the road so you have to look for the sign. It is certainly the longest of the bridges and claims title to the most rustic charm. With missing beams and a weather-ridden exterior, it evokes a sense of wonder in the viewer -- as if the bridge is a portal into another decade.
Wayne National Park boasts ideal fishing, canoeing and hiking along the Muskingum River. Other recreational activities include mountain biking, ATV riding and horseback riding, with trails open from April 14-December 16. All other hiking trails are open year-round. More recreational activities can be found at the Wayne National Forest website.