Take a fall drive back in time on a tour of some of the most picturesque historic structures in the state: Michigan’s covered bridges. In the early days there countless covered bridges spanning creeks, streams and rivers. Now, only a handful of the 19th century relics remain, with several additional bridges recreated to recapture some of the romance of the era. Most of the bridges are located in the south and western part of the Lower Peninsula, with two preserved on the southeastern side of the Mitten. Plan a leisurely outing that combines a visit to a covered bridge with a stop at a winery or cider mill to sip Michigan wines or apple cider, an orchard to munch just-ripe apples, or a meal of local foods at a unique café to enjoy the wonders of a Pure Michigan autumn.
White’s Covered Bridge over the Flat River in Ionia County is the oldest one in Michigan still in use. Built in 1867, the 120-foot long bridge is built of hand-hewn lumber, wooden pegs and hand-cut nails. Just a short drive southwest, the Fallasburg Covered Bridge is one of three covered bridges in the state that are open to vehicles. Built in 1871, it replaced an 1840 span across the Flat River. Now the 100-foot long bridge, located in a park five miles north of Lowell, is one of the structures preserved in the Fallasburg Historic Village.
At 282 feet long the Langley Bridge near Centreville is Michigan’s longest covered bridge and one of the longest in the country. It was built in 1887 and is also notable for how close it rests to the St. Joseph River.
There’s a dramatic story behind the Ada Bridge, which also built in 1867. Over the years the bridge underwent repairs and restoration, including a major project to rebuild the roof after snows collapsed it in 1979. Then, tragically, fire destroyed the reconstructed bridge. The community rebuilt the 14-foot wide by 125-foot long span across the Thornapple River, which is open only to pedestrian traffic and connects the Village of Ada with a public park.
Also crossing the Thornapple River is the Bowen’s Mills Bridge in Delton. The photogenic bridge was recreated in 1982 after a design by the miller at the 1864 Grist Mill. The mill, with its 17-foot water wheel, is still in place.
Visitors to the W.K. Kellogg Forest near Battle Creek can admire the Augusta Covered Bridge, a handsome, 32-foot long structure that was built on private property in 1973 and relocated to its present site.
Fisher’s Bridge across the Chippewa River is a footbridge accessible by paths through the Deerfield Nature Park in Mt. Pleasant. The covered bridge was built in 1968 and rebuilt in 1996 after a fire.
Pedestrians and bicyclists on the 33.5-mile Kal-Haven Trail Linear State Park between Kalamazoo and South Haven appreciate the Donald F. Nichols Bridge over the South Branch of the Black River. Built in 1988, it’s located a mile east of the South Haven trailhead. The Reed City Covered Bridge over the Hersey River was built in 2000 in the White Pine Trail Linear State Park. The bridge is at the northern end of the 92-mile rail trail between Cadillac and Comstock Park.
The scenic Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park has its own covered bridge, named for the man who envisioned the 7.4 mile route with a view. Pierce Stocking built the original bridge in the 1960s, but porcupines found it very appetizing and the Pierce Stocking Bridge was rebuilt in 1986.
Michigan’s Little Bavaria, Frankenmuth, has its own wooden bridge---Zehnder’s Holz Brucke---over the Cass River. The 239-foot covered bridge was built in 1979, and is open to pedestrians and vehicles.
The threatened Ackley Bridge, built in 1832, was slated to be razed when Henry Ford acquired it, trucked it 300 miles from Pennsylvania to Michigan, and had it reconstructed in Greenfield Village. It’s now a part of the outdoor museum that is a part of The Henry Ford in Dearborn.