CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — To make sure grain, corn, and other goods got to where they needed to go, bridges were needed to make that happen. Some of those bridges were covered bridges that still stand to this day. Destination Illinois’ Jack Gerfen takes us on a tour to four bridges in Central Illinois.
What was once a vital way to cross a river is now a popular type of sight-seeing destination.
And while some of the covered bridges in Central Illinois are too old, this one in Mahomet, Illinois is one you can still drive over.Jack Gerfen, Mahomet, Illinois for Destination Illlinois
Their construction not only makes them photogenic, it is crucial to their design to distribute the weight to carry a heavy load. Some may not serve the original purpose they were built to do, but they do give us a reason to take the backroads for a look back in history.
While Indiana is known for their covered bridges, four of these bridges still exist in Central Illinois.
SUGAR CREEK COVERED BRIDGE
Sugar Creek Covered Bridge to the southeast of Chatham is the oldest one on the list. Built by Thomas Black in 1827, it spans 110 feet over the Sugar Creek. It has been closed to traffic since 1984, but can be enjoyed in a park on foot. With it only minutes from the Glenarm exit off of I-55, it is easy to get to.
THOMPSON MILL COVERED BRIDGE
About an hour and 20 minutes southeast from there is the Thompson Mill Covered Bridge in Cowden.
It’s only in Central Illinois that you’ll find the Thompson Mill bridge. That actually is the narrowest covered bridge in all of Illinois.Jack Gerfen, Cowden, Illinois for Destination Illinois
Built in 1868 at a cost of $2,500, this bridge crosses the Kaskaskia River to provide the nearby Thompson Mill an access point to the important Springfield to Effingham route. Now, you can only walk across it.
From the narrowest covered bridge, we will go 50 minutes east to the longest covered bridge in the state, the Cumberland County Covered Bridge following Old Highway 40.
CUMBERLAND COUNTY COVERED BRIDGE
Spanning 200 feet over the Embarass River, this is the newest bridge. It was completed in 2000 to replicate the original Jackson Covered Bridge from 1832 that suffered numerous washouts. It was even part of the route for the 2021 Hot Rod Power Tour!
The final bridge on the list is another hour and 20 minutes to the north, in the beautiful Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet.
Just a great way to get the community and the area involved. People come here for pictures, whether it be for senior pictures, family pictures, prom.Lisa Sprinkle, Marketing Manager, Champaign County Forest Preserve District
LAKE OF THE WOODS COVERED BRIDGE
This bridge was originally built in the 1960s over 18 months to connect the two sides of the forest preserve. Designed by University of Illinois Civil Engineering instructor German Gurfinkel, it will undergo some roof renovations later this year and is likely the busiest in terms of traffic on the list.
All of these bridges are free and look great in all 4 seasons!