Cedar Covered Bridge

Cedar covered bridge, one of the world-famous Bridges of Madison County, is located in Cedar Bridge County Park about three miles from Winterset, the couny seat. It features grassy expanses and two gathering areas: the Gazebo on the north side of the bridge, and the Jerry Schwartfeger Memorial Courtyard picnic area for slightly larger groups on the south side of the bridge. Restrooms are located in the parking area on the southwest side. For more information or to make reservations, please visit Madison County Parks.

Cedar bridge Gazebo area The Jerry Schwartfeger Memorial Courtyard picnic area

Cedar bridge Gazebo area

The Jerry Schwartfeger Memorial Courtyard picnic area

After nearly 1-1/2 years since Cedar Covered Bridge was attacked by arson, the rebuilt bridge is once again open for vehicles to drive through.

Cedar 3 Dedication
The new Cedar Covered Bridge was officially dedicated again during the Madison County Covered Bridge Festival on Saturday, October 12, 2019.
(photo by Kim Davis). Click image for a larger view.

Cedar April 15, 2017

Cedar was destroyed by arson a second time on April 15, 2017.

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

One of the methods to keep costs down on the new bridge was to use a steel structure for the bridge floor, rather than a wooden structure which was used in the previous replica. It closely matched the construction of the original Cedar bridge built in 1883.

Structure on the new Cedar bridge

Structure on the previous Cedar bridge


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. Cedar is the last covered bridge open to vehicles.

The original Cedar Covered Bridge.

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.

THe original 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 felt that rebuilding the bridge 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 construction of the first Cedar Covered Bridge replica 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 was (as are all the covered bridges of Madison County) on the National Register of Historic Places.

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

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. Iowa 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.

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.