|Today we drove to Parke County, IN and visited 14 covered bridges! From the Parke County, IN website, we learned that, with a total of 31 covered bridges, Parke County is known as the "Covered Bridge Capital of the World" as well as the following:
In the 1800's covered bridges were practical due to the abundance of virgin timber and were covered to protect the floorboards. Another reason the bridges were covered is the fact that the horsed did not like to cross the open bridges where they could see and hear the rushing water. The bridges were covered and, you will notice, the entrances look like that of a barn. The horses would enter willingly. Covered bridges were known as "kissing bridges" as courting couples were prone to stop and steal a kiss before leaving the bridge.
The load limit is determined by the floor beams and supports, as it is difficult to estimate the strength of the arches, which are much stronger in comparison. The Burr Arches used in every Parke County bridge except the Phillip's Bridge(which has a Kingpost) were developed by Theodore Burr. He was known as the "Father of American Bridge Building" and patented it's design in 1820. All the bridges are made of yellow poplar with the exception of the Big Rocky Fork and Conley's Ford bridges which are made of white pine. Prior to 1900, the abutments were made of blocks of Mansfield sandstone, and after 1900, they were made of concrete. If the bridge sat on a winding approach, windows were placed at the ends of the bridge.
The inscription "Cross This Bridge At A Walk" dates back to the horse and buggy days and was placed at both ends of the bridges. The rhythm of the horses hooves could do more structural damage to the bridge than the weight of a modern day truck. For the same reason, soldiers broke cadence when crossing also.
Construction cost varied from $1,200 for the Crooks Bridge to $8,000 for the West Union Bridge. At one time Parke County had a total of 52 1/2 bridges. The 1/2 bridge was owned in cooperation with Vermillion County as it sat half in each county crossing the Wabash River. Thirty-one bridges remain with 10 retired to vehicular traffic.
Although I would have liked to attend the Covered Bridge Festival, Indiana's largest festival, which starts on the 2nd Friday in October (this Friday), Dan isn't particularly fond of big crowds - and this festival has had over a million visitors annually during the 10 day festival (per the Rockville, IN visitor center). For those interested, the Festival has been headquartered on the courthouse lawn in Rockville since 1957, and food, crafts, and vendors booths are set-up around the courthouse and in the surrounding small communities containing covered bridges. Additionally bus tours depart from Rockville to travel to the small communities as well as stop at the covered bridges.
Driving the IN dusty country roads with a backdrop of beautiful colors on the changing trees and seeing the unique covered bridges made for a perfect day - one that I would have been working before retirement! We feel so fortunate to be traveling and seeing our beautiful country!