Ohio has lots of covered bridges in both southeast and northeast Ohio. These symbols of a time gone by before freeways and 4 land highways bring back the nostalgia associated with those days. Often located in out of the way locations, seeking out the covered bridges of Ohio are a great way to spend an afternoon.
In southeastern Ohio there are some fine examples of covered bridges that were once a common site throughout the state, but today they are much harder to find. The reason early road builders covered their bridges was to keep the structural timbers dry. These wood structures would quickly rot from exposure to the extreme climate changes they would face during their expected life span.
Today many of the bridges still existing have had extensive reconstruction. A few have not. Some can still be driven across. And, in Ashtabula, they are still building new covered bridges as part of an ongoing program that highlights our heritage with Ohio's future.
Covered bridges seem to bring back a romantic era in our country's development and seeing those bridges off the beaten path help invoke some of those feelings. The sight of some backroad covered bridges might also remind us of ghost stories and legends. One tradition is that if you make a wish before crossing a covered bridge, and then hold your breath until you reach the other side, your wish will come true. One thing you might consider wishing for is that the timbers are still strong!
Covered bridges were sometimes nicknamed "kissing bridges", as the cover allowed seclusion for couples to do a little making out. In fact, when you visit these bridges you'll probably notice lots of initials carved in hearts along with a year. Looking at the dates, you can imagine where those people are today-- many of those initials would probably be great-great-great grandparents today.
Many of the covered bridges are located off the highway. Some have small parks and picnic tables. Taking a covered bridge tour is a great way to spend an fall afternoon, especially when the leaves have started to change.
The Bridges of Ashtabula County
Ashtabula County has made a tourist industry of their covered bridges. Not only does the county have the largest number of covered bridges in the state, but it also now owns the largest covered bridge in the country. Each fall Ashtabula County hosts a Covered Bridge Festival that features all 17 of their covered bridges.
When you visit a covered bridge, you will probably notice a number directly underneath the name of the bridge. This number is called the World Guide to Covered Bridge Numbering System (WGCB).
The system uses three numbers separated by hyphens. The first number represents the number of the US state in alphabetical order; for example, Ohio is number 35. The second number represents the county, again in alphabetical order. In the example shown above, 84 represents Washington County. The last number is the sequence number that represents the sequence it was originally built, or in some instances, as it was discovered.
The covered bridge numbering system was created by John Diehl of Cincinnati while acting as chairman of the former Ohio Covered Bridge Committee. The Ohio Historical Society used this system in 1953 with the publication of its first Ohio Covered Bridge List.
Additional designations may also be added to the 3 sets of numbers. For example, if a bridge had been destroyed and then replaced with a replica, it would have "#2" added to the designation.
Which county has the most covered bridges in Ohio?
There are 135 covered bridges in Ohio with half of Ohio's counties having at least 1 covered bridge. The majority of the covered bridges are located in Eastern Ohio.
Ashtabula and Fairfield Counties lead the list with 16 covered bridges each still in existence.