Family Vacations in Iowa

Family Vacations in Iowa: Bridges of Madison County

The Holliwell Bridge is one of the five original bridges still standing in                                  Madison County.
The Holliwell Bridge is one of the five original bridges still standing in Madison County.

Madison County, Iowa, used to be a typical Midwestern farm area. Less than an hour's drive south of Des Moines, the county was notable as the birthplace of John Wayne, for the home of the 18-acre Madison County Historical Society building, and for its rustic covered bridges. Then Robert James Waller wrote The Bridges of Madison County, a best-selling novel. Today, Madison County's covered bridges have become such a tourist draw that the county now is building reproductions of lost covered bridges.

Madison County at one time tallied 19 picturesque covered bridges; today just five of the original ones survive. These are the Cutler-Donahoe Bridge, Hogback Bridge, Holliwell Bridge, Imes Bridge, and Roseman Bridge, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A suspected arson fire destroyed Cedar Bridge in 2002. County officials have offered a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator. A replica Cedar Bridge was dedicated in 2004.

While Waller's book tells a romantic tale, the bridges' origins were quite practical: The Madison County Board of Supervisors ordered they be covered to preserve their large flooring timbers, which were more expensive than the lumber used to cover the bridges' sides and roofs.

Bridges of Madison County Information

Address: Madison County Chamber of Commerce

73 Jefferson St

Winterset , IA

Telephone: 515/462-1185, 800/298-6119

While the Bridges of Madison County put Iowa on the map, Iowa's history is rooted in Amana Colonies America. Learn more about the Amana Colonies' seven communities and 31 historic places on the next page.

To learn more about family vacation destinations, see:

  • Family Vacations: Learn about hundreds of family vacations in destinations all over North America.
  • Iowa State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Iowa, as well as other recreational activities.
  • Scenic Drives: For those who think that getting there is half the fun, we have compiled more than 100 of the most scenic drives throughout the country.