Tom and I have resumed adventure days with my mom and dad and the first thing we explored was the covered bridges of Ashtabula County. Ashtabula County is located in the northeast corner of Ohio, so it was a good two hour drive from my parents’ home in Mansfield.
Ashtabula County has 19 covered bridges including the longest and shortest in the United States. They host a Covered Bridge Festival every year in October. Unfortunately, this year’s festival is canceled due to Covid-19. If they had been holding it, we might have held off until then. But, as it was, we had our own covered bridge tour without crowds of people. Just the four of us exploring the back roads.
Before we left, I downloaded the Covered Bridge map and printed it off. The map document also includes brief descriptions of each bridge so we knew something about it when we got there. Ashtabula County’s 19 covered bridges have five types of construction: Howe truss, Pratt truss, Town lattice truss, Burr Arch, and Inverted Haupt truss. You can read everything you ever wanted to know about trusses here.
We saw nine of the Ashtabula County covered bridges. Our favorite was the Windsor Mills Bridge over Phelps Creek. The Town lattice bridge was built in 1867 and is 120 feet long. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Most of the bridges have been renovated to keep them strong enough for vehicular traffic. Many of them had a Burr Arch added to strengthen the trusses.
The oldest bridges we saw were built in 1867 and 1868. All of them have been renovated in some way. Ashtabula County, however, is still building covered bridges. We saw a bridge built in 1986 in honor of the county’s 175th anniversary. We also saw the Smolen-Gulf Brdige built in 2008. This is the longest covered bridge in the United States at 613 feet. It stands 93 feet above the Ashtabula River. We did not see the West Liberty covered bridge, which is the shortest in the United States at 18 feet.
After getting our fill of covered bridges we headed to the Lake Erie Shore to see the Ashtabula Harbor Light. Some other communities along Lake Erie have developed their lakefronts to attract tourists. Not Ashtabula. This is a working-class town and they have not prettied up their shoreline. The Harbor Light sits at the end of a long rock jetty. We did not walk to the end – Mom and Dad were not up to the unevenness of the rocks – but we took some pictures of the Harbor Light.
We enjoyed our outing to Ashtabula County and our private tour of the county’s covered bridges. If you want a good socially distanced outdoor activity, take a drive and check them out.