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March 11, 2009 / Bo Mackison

Imes Covered Bridge from Madison County

A Bridge of Madison County

First in a series of the Bridges of Madison County

Remember the movie The Bridges of Madison County?   It was a hit in 1995, and nominated for an Oscar. (Meryl Streep for Best Actress in a leading role, but Susan Sarandon won for her role in Dead Man Walking.) Directed by Clint Eastwood, and produced by Eastwood and Kathleen Kennedy, the film is a narrative about choices and consequences.

The story begins: It is autumn, 1965. Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) comes to Madison County, Iowa, to photograph the Roseman and Holliwell covered bridges. He is a professional photographer on assignment to the National Geographic magazine and he is lost. Pulling his green pickup into the driveway of a farmhouse, he asks for directions. Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) is at home, alone.  Her husband and two children are visiting the Illinois State Fair for the next 4 days. Francesca has been married for 15 years and is anticipating “time alone with herself” as the stranger approaches her for information.

The movie was adapted for screen by Richard LaGravenese from Robert James Waller’s novel, The Bridges of Madison County.

The Bridges of Madison County was made on location in Madison County not far from Des Moines in central Iowa.

Built in 1870

Madison County originally had 19 covered bridges, but only six remain today.

The large number of covered bridges in this one county began as an economical move. The bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors in the early 1880s to help preserve the large flooring timbers. The floor boards were much more expensive than the lumber required to cover the sides and roof of the bridge.

Typically the bridges were named for the resident (or residents) who lived nearest to the bridge, an easy referencing method for the locals.

The oldest of the remaining covered bridges, the Imes  is 81 feet in length. It was originally located over the Middle River west of Patterson, Iowa. In 1887 it was moved to a spot over Clinton Creek southwest of Hanley.  The Imes Bridge was moved again to its present site over a natural ravine just east of St. Charles in 1977 and renovated in 1997. All 6 bridges are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Interior Woodwork

Interior Woodwork

There is a fair amount of heavy duty wood reinforcing the inside of the barn.

Even a Birds Nest Finds Cover

A Bit of Nature, Too

Even the birds’ can get their nest covered in Madison County–if they build them in the eaves of the covered bridges.

I took photographs of the six bridges last autumn, on our trip home from the Southwest. There are more to come.

(I am plain worn out posting all those “whites in winter” shots. At least the bridges are mostly red, and surrounded by green trees and grass.)


  1. Marcie / Mar 11 2009 5:24 am

    Love this series of images detailing this particular covered bridge..and am looking forward to seeing the rest that you’ve documented. I have a particular fondness/interest in these. Mostly – those that are here in New England (Vermont)..which aren’t that many at all!!!

  2. Anna Surface / Mar 11 2009 6:11 am

    In all my years of travels and places I’ve lived, I have never actually seen or walked on a covered bridge. I thought that the covered bridges remaining were in the NE. I do enjoy seeing photos of them in any season. Nice photos, Bo. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

    By the way, I do remember the movie, The Bridges of Madison County, especially the ending. 🙂

  3. montucky / Mar 11 2009 10:03 am

    Those are so beautiful! I’m glad to see that they are being preserved. They have so much soul compared to the concrete messes we have today.

  4. Richard Lovison / Mar 11 2009 10:11 am

    Nice images Bo… I especially like the one of the interior woodwork.

    I think the year of the movie was 1995.

    • Bo / Mar 11 2009 10:29 am

      You are so right, Richard.

      The movie’s story took place in 1965. But the movie indeed was out in 1995, and up for the 1996 Academy Awards.


  5. quinncreative / Mar 11 2009 11:56 am

    For all the covered bridges I crossed in New England, I never knew why they were covered. It sure wasn’t for comfort–New England church pews speak of the fact that comfort isn’t a virtue in New England. So I never knew! Thanks for that great portfolio.

    • Bo / Mar 11 2009 6:44 pm

      I guess money speaks louder than creature comfort.

  6. Gandalf / Mar 11 2009 3:00 pm

    Nice shots.

  7. Debi / Mar 11 2009 7:37 pm

    I couldn’t watch the movie because the book moved me to tears for days upon days upon end. No actor or actress can take the place of the people in my mind, so I cannot watch it… the movie. Ever. A trip to Iowa years later took me to these bridges upon accident but I had no camera then. Still, I sat and looked and remembered and knew that these bridges perch upon my soul. Thank you for this reminder. Lovely photos, lovely post. When people wonder why I blog and read other’s blogs… this is one of those reasons. Such surprises and connections.

  8. Laurie / Mar 13 2009 8:57 am

    Beautiful bridge. I love how you show us the details inside.

  9. ybonesy / Mar 13 2009 7:30 pm

    I didn’t realize that Madison County had a series of covered bridges.

    Too bad there are so few left, but how wonderful that you captured them. The shots are gorgeous. I love the fall colors looking out from under the covered bridge. I think that is in your latest post from the series.

  10. Robin / Mar 16 2009 1:38 pm

    Oddly, I’ve never seen the movie. Or read the book. I should put it on both lists (movie and books).

    Very nice shots, Bo. I enjoy visiting covered bridges. M and I once got very lost searching out some of the ten or so covered bridges in southern Ohio. There was no cellphone coverage and houses were few and far between since it was mostly hills and farm country. It was a fun adventure, and we met a farmer or two along the way who helped us find our way out to a main road.

    • Bo / Mar 16 2009 3:46 pm

      Madison County is amazingly organized. Nice map, easy to follow, and the bridges are really quite close to one another. We toured 5 bridges plus a restored school house in less than a morning.

  11. marly / Mar 25 2009 10:49 pm

    i read this book when i’m in high school, and i can’t forget the story until now.i remember i was crying while im reading it and my mom knock so i hide the book coz she did’nt know i’m reading her book. it’s a very beautiful story…

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