WORTH THE DRIVE: Charming covered bridges offer a trip back in time

To discover the oldest covered bridge in Ohio – along with seven others – take a trip to Preble County.

Take a driving tour of county's 8 historic bridges, including the oldest existing covered bridge in Ohio.

To discover the oldest covered bridge in Ohio — along with seven others — take a trip to Preble County.

The covered bridges, built between 1829 and 2012, are scattered in quaint communities and along rural roads that wind through corn and soybean fields.

Christman Bridge, on Eaton-New Hope Road, is one of eight covered bridges in Preble County. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Christman Bridge, on Eaton-New Hope Road, is one of eight covered bridges in Preble County. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

In the center of the county, you’ll find the historic gem of the collection, Roberts Bridge, located on Beech Street in Eaton.

Built in 1829, it is the oldest existing covered bridge in Ohio and the second oldest in the nation.

The historic span is also the oldest double barreled — or dual-wagonway — bridge remaining in the United States.

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Roberts Bridge was constructed by Orlistus Roberts and J.L. Campbell and originally spanned Seven Mile Creek on Old Camden Road a few miles south of Eaton.

The landmark was nearly destroyed by arson in 1986, but a community-backed restoration project brought it back to life.

Roberts Bridge, one of eight covered bridges in Preble County, is the oldest existing covered bridge in Ohio, and the second oldest in the nation. It is located in Beech Street in Eaton. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Roberts Bridge, one of eight covered bridges in Preble County, is the oldest existing covered bridge in Ohio, and the second oldest in the nation. It is located in Beech Street in Eaton. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

In 1990, it was moved to Beech Street for safekeeping. Today, the bright red covered bridge is a peaceful spot for picnics five blocks south of Main Street.

The covered bridges are interwoven with the milestones of Preble County residents.

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Generations of prom and graduation photos have been taken with a bridge as a background and countless wedding vows have been recited under the rough-hewn beams.

“The county loves them,” said Stephanie Garrett, president of the Preble County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“They are like a part of the family because a lot of our families have ties to them.”

Covered bridges are picturesque, but also a rare look into the past.

Most bridges deteriorated and did not survive, or they were removed to make roads more accessible, said David Maynard, vice president of the convention bureau.

Residents of Preble County have an appreciation for the historical significance and the charm that comes along with the bridges, he said. “There is a love of covered bridges in this county.”

Preble County's covered bridges, built between 1829 and 2012, are scattered in quaint communities and along rural roads that wind through corn and soybean fields. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Preble County's covered bridges, built between 1829 and 2012, are scattered in quaint communities and along rural roads that wind through corn and soybean fields. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

There were once 3,500 covered bridges in Ohio, according to the convention bureau. Today, approximately 148 bridges remain.

Construction of the Hueston Woods Bridge in 2012 has kept the traditional design alive.

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The red bridge trimmed in white is 108-feet long and spans Four Mile Creek on Camden College Corner Road within Hueston Woods State Park.

It was constructed using a Burr arch-truss design — patented by Theodore Burr in 1817 — similar to the design of the historic Roberts Bridge.

Hueston Woods Bridge was constructed in 2012 and is one of eight covered bridges in Preble County. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Hueston Woods Bridge was constructed in 2012 and is one of eight covered bridges in Preble County. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

The remaining six covered bridges in Preble County — all of them painted white — were built by Everett S. Sherman between 1887 and 1896.

Dixon’s Branch Bridge is the centerpiece of Lewisburg Community Park with picnic tables placed inside of it.

The others are located along country roads and are still in use. A rumbling sound echoes within the spans as rubber tires meet the broad wooden planks.

“There is a romanticism that goes with covered bridges,” said Maynard. “You get a sense of going back in time every time you drive over one.”

Roberts Bridge, built in 1829, is the oldest existing covered bridge in Ohio, and the second oldest in the nation. The historic span is also the oldest double barreled, or dual-wagonway, bridge remaining in the United States. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Roberts Bridge, built in 1829, is the oldest existing covered bridge in Ohio, and the second oldest in the nation. The historic span is also the oldest double barreled, or dual-wagonway, bridge remaining in the United States. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

HOW TO GO

The Preble County Convention & Visitors Bureau has information and a map to the covered bridges online.

Download the map before visiting and consider bringing along a detailed map of the area to help navigate. Cellular service is spotty in some areas.

Warnke Bridge was built in 1896 on Swamp Creek Road. It is one of eight covered bridges in Preble County. LISA POWELL / STAFF
Warnke Bridge was built in 1896 on Swamp Creek Road. It is one of eight covered bridges in Preble County. LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

Credit: LISA POWELL / STAFF

It takes a day to visit all eight covered bridges. If time is limited, a visit can be divided into one of two tours, the northern, above U.S. 35, or the southern, below U.S. 35.

Northern tour:

  • Warnke Bridge, Swamp Creek Road
  • Dixon’s Branch Bridge, Lewisburg Community Park
  • Geeting Bridge, Price Road
  • Christman Bridge, Eaton-New Hope Road

Southern tour:

  • Roberts Bridge, Beech Street
  • Harshman C Bridge, Concord-Fairhaven Road
  • Hueston Woods Bridge, Camden College Corner Road
  • Brubaker Bridge, Brubaker Road