Day Trips - The Hunt For Overlooked Michigan Covered Bridges
Ask any well-traveled Michigander what our state's most prominent landmark is, and most will reciprocate a similar response: the Mackinaw Bridge.
With this being said, most of Michigan's extraordinary bridges are overlooked by the general public. Recently, my girlfriend Michelle and I made it a mission to dissect a handful of these unique, yet LESSER-KNOWN BRIDGES.
Editor Note: This article was taken from the original site of mittenexpedition.com, founded by Michelle Guilbault and Jake Hooker. This restoration of their work is a nod to their efforts, and we want to keep it alive and online.
The added effects of cobblestone take passengers back in time when crossing the Holz-Brucke Covered Bridge. We had recently visited Frankenmuth, so we spent our day trip on the west side of the state.
What is it about an old bridge that is so fascinating? Perhaps the history as to why it was constructed?
Maybe we admire the turmoil a bridge has overcome- whether it be floods, harsh winters, or overuse. With some of Michigan's most whimsical bridges being over 150 years old, spectators can't even fathom what these formations have encountered.
Sleeping Bear Dune's Pierce Stocking Drive is home to perhaps the most iconic covered bridge in Michigan.
Michelle and I were compulsive about being outdoors during our free time and were eager for a day trip.
We fell in love in 2017 with the Holz-Brucke covered bridge in Frankenmuth and the Pierce-Stocking Bridge in Sleeping Bear Dunes. The crew (dogs included) took off from Metro Detroit on a mild
February evening to stay overnight in Traverse City. As the sun began to rise on Sunday morning, we set out for a day trip to enjoy several of West Michigan's most majestic bridges.
All packed and ready to go, Harley and Molly were ecstatic for a road trip.
Loon Song Covered Bridge (Joshua's Crossing) - Lake Ann
Our first stop was the most "interactive" of all the bridges. Joshua's Crossing is even for sale with the lakefront property. Michigan's version of a drawbridge leading to the king's castle.
Just outside Traverse City, a charming covered bridge lies hidden on Herendeen Lake, serving as a gateway to several other properties along the water. The bridge sits slightly off Reynolds Road, with only a small sign directing spectators down a hidden drive (Michelle and I stayed in the neighboring resort last year with no inclination of the bridge's existence).
The narrow pavement immediately brings vehicles to a welcoming structure that expresses as much character as any covered bridge in the mitten. Visitors are welcomed with a Christmas wreath, guest logbook, information packets, and even a self-ringing bell- complete with a deer antler handle! Michelle and I could not help but become captivated by the charm of this 90-foot treasure.
With a last name like Hooker, it's not every day you get your own street/business sign on the corner! This was heading south from Traverse City; I just had to act like a fool.
Cooley Bridge (Pine River Bridge In Welston)
Cooley Bride on M-55 is easily one of Michigan's most beautiful bridges. Its scenic overlooks of the Pine River Valley are second to none, with eagles, geese, and other waterfowl frequently on site.
This steel bridge is comparable to the Cut River Bridge but is much overlooked by its "Yooper" sibling. Though not a covered version, the M-55 trestle bridge gives a fantastic view overlooking a gorgeous section of the Manistee National Forest. With a rest area on the east side, this small park has steps to explore underneath the massive structure.
Cooley Bridge is one of the most spectacular in Michigan, as the platform's panoramic view motivates moving far out of the city.
Little Mac Foot Bridge- Mesick
Along with hiking, this Big Manistee River stretch from Hodenpyle to Red Bridge is a sample of Michigan's perfection. With Bald Eagles above and Brown Trout below, this particular area is an outdoor lover's heaven.
For years, the North Country Trail and Manistee River Trail were two parallel paths, divorced and divided. That is until 1992, when the two trails were linked by a 245 foot Wooden Suspension Bridge, creating a loop for backpackers. We accessed the bridge from the north, turning west just before the Hodenpyle Damn entrance (the bridge can also be reached from the south by Seaton Creek Campground).
My family would canoe under this masterpiece as a kid, watching backpackers trek the 20+ mile loop. I also couldn't help but admire the rope swings hanging from the towering cliffs just downstream. Having endured the Manistee River Trail, "Little Mac" is a sigh of relief as a Hiker's halfway point- almost like what a lighthouse must represent to a freighter captain on the Great Lakes.
Ada Covered Bridge- Ada
The bridge-hunting gang, standing in a piece of Michigan's history. As the Greater Grand Rapids area developed, this masterpiece has stood the test of time.
Nestled on the Thornapple River east of Grand Rapids, what the Ada Covered Bridge lacks in size is offset by its history. Built in 1867, the Michigan Historical Site sign onsite states the bridge was frequently challenged with floods upon its construction. Farmers would haul wagons full of stone onto the bridge for added weight to prevent the bridge from washing out. The Thornapple Dam lies upstream and now prevents flooding with lower water levels below.
A modest park surrounds the Ada Covered Bridge and is only used for pedestrian traffic. The covered bridge perfectly complements Ada's small-town feel.
Fallasburg Covered Bridge-Lowell
Warning: there is a $5 fine for "Riding or Driving on This Bridge Faster Than a Walk."
The Flat River's Fallasburg Bridge coincides with the timber boom West Michigan experienced in the 1800s. Beginning with a sawmill, the demand for a bridge around 1840 was the initiation of the Fallasburg Bridge. Like the Ada structure, Fallasburg fell victim to spring floods throughout its history. Repairs in the early 20th century have reinforced the bridge for vehicles to utilize still to this day.
There is a small riverfront park on site, adjacent to the bridge for parking. Fallasburg is a unique place to make a quick stop on the bridge chase.
Whites Covered Bridge-Belding
That Clark Grizwold/Wally World Shrug... So, the bridge was not as advertised on Google Maps.
Further upstream on the Flat River lies the Whites Covered Bridge... Well, it did at one time.
After researching on the interwebs for West Michigan Covered Bridges, GoogleMaps had us hyped to see both Whites and Fallasburg so close together. Needless to say, we wasted 40 minutes on a picture of me shrugging on top of rubble that once was White Covered Bridge. Word on the streets is arsonists had burned it down several years ago (unreal how some people can be so ruthless).
You are welcome for the time saver!
Despite its relatively small stature, the Augusta-covered bridge provides a gateway into tranquility via trails in the Kellogg Forest for those seeking a hike.
As a former Kalamazoo County resident, I'm almost ashamed to admit this was my maiden voyage to the W.K. Kellogg Forest. The quaint covered bridge greets pedestrians almost immediately upon entering a small parking lot, as the clear waters of Augusta Creek flow underneath.
The bridge was constructed in 1973 as an eccentric entrance for hikers and equestrian lovers. Admittedly, Michelle and I made just a brief stop for pictures in Augusta, but it would be nice to hike and fish when the stream opens this spring.
Langley Covered Bridge-Centerville
The last stop on our "wild" tour was outside of Three Rivers, at Michigan's longest covered bridge (my, how I have fallen from the status of a WMU party animal). At over 280 feet, Langley Covered Bridge has extended over the St. Joe River since 1887.
Though not as scenic or rustic as the other covered bridges, the barn red color gives Langley a distinct look that makes it a mainstay for any bridge checklist (even if its a "hi" and "bye").
Fire and Ice: We wrapped up the tour with a sunset over the St. Joe River and Michigan's longest-covered bridge.
Two parks surround Langley, though nothing is close enough to enjoy a spectacular view. We just parked illegally briefly, snapped some shots, and checked off the mother of all Michigan-covered bridges from the bucket list.
West Michigan spoiled us with one of those 30-minute sunsets. I couldn't help but drive with a smile, keeping one eye in the rearview.....
With our taillights to the sunset, we set off for the concrete jungle back east. Michelle, along with the dogs and I, had a stellar day embracing a few familiar places and several we had never experienced before. As a Michigan outdoor junkie, there is a constant hunger to explore unfamiliar territory in our great state.
“Never lose sight of the unknown by being fascinated with what you already know...” — Professor Barkley