Cedar Covered Bridge

Cedar Covered Bridge was one of the six remaining covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa. 76 feet long, Cedar was built in 1883 by Harvey P. Jones over Cedar creek north of the county seat of Winterset on what is now U.S. Highway 169.

Progress is being made on the second reconstruction of Cedar. The base of the bridge is complete, and the first side panel is hoisted into position by two cranes on March 11, 2019:

One side raised on March 11, 2019

Cedar April 15, 2017

Cedar was burned by an arsonist again on April 15, 2017.

Three teenagers, Alexander Hoff, age 18, Joel Davis, also 18, and Alivia Bergmann, 19, were arrested. Because they testified against ringleader Hoff, Davis and Bergmann were given deferred judgements—if they successfully complete a 5 year term of probation the conviction will be wiped from their records. They were also ordered to pay a $1,000 civil fine, court costs, and restitution for the burned bridge. Alexander Hoff plead guilty to second degree arson and criminal mischief; both crimes are punishable by up to 10 years in prison. On June 1, 2018, Judge Richard Clogg sentenced Hoff to 5 years probation and a 10 year suspended sentence.

The remaining structure of the burned bridge was taken down May 3, 2018. Cost to rebuild the bridge is $719,663.20. The Madison County Covered Bridge Preservation Association, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), welcomes donations to help fund the rebuilding of Cedar Bridge. More information here.

Cedar (also known as the Casper bridge) was one of 19 original covered bridges built in Madison County. The bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors to help preserve the large flooring timbers, which were more expensive to replace than the lumber used to cover the bridge sides and roof.

Cedar during the move in 1921 Cedar in its new site

Images courtesy of the Madison County Historical Society

In 1921, Cedar was moved by steam-powered tractor to its present location over the same creek, about 1.3 miles to the east. A small county park is at the site, with a picnic area and gazebo. Cedar is the last covered bridge open to vehicles.

County residents recognized the covered bridges as an important part of their heritage, and began the tradition of a Covered Bridge Festival in 1970. The Festival is always held on the second full weekend in October. As with the other remaining bridges, Cedar was carefully maintained and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was restored in 1998 with meticulous attention to historic detail at a cost of $128,073.

Bridges Novel Cover

Cedar bridge became world famous in 1992, when it played a prominent role in Robert James Waller's novel The Bridges of Madison County. In the book, Cedar Bridge is where Francesca Johnson goes to meet Robert Kincaid to help him take photographs. A photograph of Cedar bridge adorns the cover of this world-wide bestseller.

Oprah at Cedar Bridge

In 1993, Oprah Winfrey broadcast one of her shows from Cedar Bridge. Calling The Bridges of Madison County her “favorite book of the year,” Oprah brought author Robert Waller and her entire crew on location. The wooden stairway built next to the bridge for the show are affectionately known locally as the Oprah steps.

Cedar covered bridge was destroyed by a fire set by an unknown arsonist on the evening of September 3, 2002.

The Madison County Board of Supervisors constructed a replica of the original bridge. Click here for more details and photos of the construction.

Although the original Cedar bridge and its 119-year history can certainly never be replaced, residents feel that rebuilding the bridge with the same methods and materials used in its original construction is a positive response from the community to this cowardly act. We want to make sure future generations remember this wonderful old structure.

Cedar after the fire

Cedar Construction

December 2003–September 2004

The new Cedar Covered Bridge replica construction takes place. The design is based on old blueprints and photos of the original bridge, and the work must be meticulous and as authentic to the original construction methods as possible, as Cedar (and all the covered bridges of Madison County) are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Click the image to the left or here to see photos of the construction progress.

New Cedar Covered Bridge Dedication
Saturday October 9, 2004

Gov. Vilsack speaks at the dedication

Gov. and Mrs. Vilsack cut the ribbon

A dedication ceremony took place at 5:00pm on Saturday, October 9th during the 2004 Madison County Covered Bridge Festival. Governor and Mrs. Vilsack were on hand to proclaim Winterset an “Iowa Shines” community and to cut the ribbon at the dedication. An ascension by 13 hot air balloons preceeded the event.

Balloons, Wine and Cheese

A wine and cheese reception followed inside the bridge until 7:00pm.

The reception was hosted by the Madison County Covered Bridge Preservation Association and sponsored by Summerset Winery, Fareway, Farmers All Natural Creamery, Golden Ridge Cheese Cooperative, Northern Prairie Chevre Cheese, and All American Turf Beauty.

Cedar will be rebuilt. Because they are replacing a replica this time, different materials can be used to hold the cost to an estimated $719,663. You can follow the progress on the rebuilding process on Facebook here.

For more information about Cedar bridge and all of Madison County’s covered bridges and other attractions, visit the Madison County Chamber of Commerce web site.

Photos not otherwise credited by Wayne Davis. Site hosting, design and maintenance donated by TYPExpress.