Covered Bridges of Central Ohio

 

Covered Bridges of Central Ohio

Visiting Xenia-Clifton-Troy-Russells Point

by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz

 

July 21,
2008:
As I typically do, on the way back to Canada I try to find some
interesting back road drives so I can see more of this wonderful country we live
in.  On this trip I decided to hit a number of covered bridges in Central
Ohio.  I have grown fond of covered bridges, which I have seen in Kentucky,
Michigan, Ohio and even Ontario.  They always seem to be in very scenic
areas over nice streams and rivers.   This particular trip would take
me north of Cincinnati to Xenia, Ohio and then north into the Troy/Piqua area
and then towards Russells Point and Indian Lake.  I mapped out a number of
these bridges along the way.

 

Initially, I drove into Cincinnati and then towards
Columbus on I-71 to exit 50 towards Mt. Pleasant.  Highway U.S. 68 north
would take me into the heart of Ohio where I could see a number of old covered
bridges.  The map below shows the first few locations.

 

 

My first stop along the way was the West Engle Mill Rd. Covered Bridge. 
From U.S. 68 I went west on East Spring Valley-Paintersville Rd.  I took
this to Engle Mill Rd. and turned left.  The bridge was off to the side of
the road.

 

This bridge is pretty dilapidated now and is not in use. It was supposedly built
in 1877 and goes over the Anderson Fork of Caesar’s Creek.  It is 135′ long
is built with a

Smith Truss
.

 



The West Engle
Mill Rd. Covered Bridge, built in 1877

 

From Engle Mill Rd.,
I headed back out to Paintersville Rd., turned right and then turned left on
Winchester Rd. and headed north where I eventually got back to US-68. I followed
that to US-35 and went East. I needed to take the Old 35 exit and then back
track west to Ballard Rd. near Jamestown, Ohio. Along the way on US-35 I could
see the bridge.  To get to it I had to go to N. Ballard Rd.  and make
a left.  This took me right to the base of the highway.  Here I came
across the Ballard Rd. Covered Bridge.

 

This bridge was in a
scenic location and is usable, but driving over it I found that the road was a
dead end on the other side.  Nonetheless, this was a nice place to visit. 
This bridge goes over the north fork of Caesar’s Creek.   It was built
in 1883 and is about 79 feet long.  It was based on a

Howe Truss
.

 

Drive through
cornfields down Ballard Rd. to the covered bridge

 

Some views of the
Ballard Rd Covered Bridge, built in 1883 by J.C. Brown

 

I had to return back
up to old 35 and then turned left. I followed it past Straley Rd. and Stringtown
Rd.  I then turned right on Nash Rd. which wound its way through farmland. 
As it crossed Route 42, it turned into Charleton Mill Rd.  This road
meandered through woods and farmland.  The next bridge then came into view. 

 

The Charleton Mill
Rd. Covered Bridge goes over Massies Creek near Wilberforce, Ohio.  This
119 foot long bridge was built in 1882 (though the numbering on the bridge
indicates it was built in 1870) by Henry Hibble and is also a Howe Truss bridge.

 


The Charleton Mill
Rd. Bridge

 



More views of the
bridge, built in 1882

 

From this bridge I
continued west on Charleton Mill Rd. to Wilberforce Clifton Rd.  I took the
next left and followed the road through Wilberforce and then on to Stevenson Rd. 
This road meandered up and down through some forest and down to Jones Rd. 
This is where I came upon the Stevenson Rd. Covered Bridge. This bridge was off
to the left and is not in use any longer.

 

Like the Charleton
Rd. bridge, this bridge also goes over Massies Creek.  It was built in 1877
by the Smith Bridge Company (though the numbering on the bridge indicates 1873). 
In 1975 it was restored, but was finally closed to traffic in 2003.  This
95 foot long bridge is a

Smith Truss
.

 


The Stevenson Rd.
Covered Bridge

 

This bridge is in
a very scenic area.  It was built in 1877

 

From the Stevenson
Bridge, I returned back to Wilberforce-Clifton Rd. and headed north towards
Clifton, Ohio.  I stayed on the road all the way to Clifton.  The
following is a typical scene along the road at this time of the year…high corn
stalks and red barns and silos along the way.

 

 

My focus on Clifton
initially was the Clifton Mill Covered Bridge, but I got plenty of wonderful
surprises in this small town.  It is one of those places that I was
thrilled to discover along the backroads of Ohio.  Clifton is home to one
of the largest water-powered grist mills still in existence.  The town
itself had a population of only 179 in the 2000 census.  The big attraction
is town is the Clifton
Mill
, which sits along the scenic

Clifton Gorge
of the Little Miami river.  Apparently, this small town
was also home to
Isaac
Kaufmann Funk
(of Funk and Wagnalls fame) and also to
Woody Hayes,
the famed coach of Ohio State University football.

 

 

I arrived in Clifton
Mill around noon so I figured I would eat lunch at the mill (at the Millrace
Restaurant).  I was happy I did!!  The restaurant is part of the old
country store in the old mill building.  It sits next to the watermill and
overlooks the beautiful scenery of the gorge.  I ordered a grilled ham and
cheese sandwich, which was made on wholewheat bread made on the premises. 
It was fabulous.  I also perused the country store, much more “country
store” than the Cracker Barrel ones I have seen so often. The mill is also
famous for its
Christmas
Lights and decorations
.  I hope I can take Julianne up there this
Christmas.  That would be fun.

 

 

The Clifton Mill
front and back views

 



The Clifton Mill
Country Store (with some dried oranges)…I got some buckwheat pancake mix for
home

 

 

A close up of some
old fashioned pickle jars

 

The Millrace
Restaurant…rustically comfy; the watermill as seen from the balcony of the
restaurant;

drinks are served
in mason jar cups

 

After lunch I took a
walk around the grounds. The weather was perfect…not too hot, even though it
was mid-July.  The river ran below the mill.  There were a number of
small waterfalls.  And the Covered Bridge was there, still decorated for
Christmas.

 



Waterfalls, the
gorge and the waterwheel

 


A couple of views
of the Clifton Mill Covered Bridge, built in 1997 but still looks quite rustic

 

Sign over the old
gas station and store

 



Some scenes from
the old Clifton Mill gas station, which is no longer in use

 

After the
pleasantries from lunch and the walk, I drove around the small village. 
There were some nice buildings and scenes, even a small little post office.

 

Some scenes from
the town of Clifton

 

I left town and
headed north and came across another pleasant surprise on the outskirts of
Clifton…one of those totally unexpected places that just literally made the
trip.  On the left side I saw a small non-obtrusive sign that said “Fish
Decoy Company
“.  Just the name sparked interest…what in the world is
a fish decoy?  So, I turned around and pulled up to a small little shack. 
It looked closed, but as I got to the front to take a look, a friendly gentleman
(named Steve Robbins) walked out and asked me to come in.  This was such a
delight and is a prime example of how every little place has a story.

 

 



The quaint little
Fish Decoy Company shop in Clifton, Ohio

 

This shop was
established by Steve Robbins, who is a self-taught fish artist, originally from
Minnesota.  He told me stories of his growing up in Northern Minnesota
where he would ice-fish.  The ice-fishermen would use wooden, handmade
decoys to lure the fish  that were underneath the thick ice.  He also
spent time fishing the many lakes in the summer.  He developed an interest
in the decoys and learned the art.  The decoys he makes are predominantly
for use in “darkhouse fishing” for sturgeon, pike and musky, which is mainly
done in the northern states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The term
“Darkhouse” is the name used by winter, spear fishermen to describe their ice
shack.  Unlike the conventional hook and line ice fishing
shack, which has windows, the Darkhouse is windowless.  Spear
fishermen require a dark environment so they can see into the water. 
Briefly, darkhouse spearing involves selecting a suitable location on the
ice, cutting a hole in the ice, and placing a Darkhouse over the hole. 
A wooden fish decoy, which has been weighted to sink in the water through
the open hole, is used  to attract a fish.  
The fisherman then uses a spear to harvest the fish, which swim in to
investigate the decoy. 

 


Some typical
darkhouses

 

Each decoy Steve Robbins
makes is hand-carved from sugar pine. He uses a combination of chisels and
handmade carving knives to shape them. They are then hand painted with acrylic
paints to achieve the look of real game fish or brightly colored folk-art; He
does not use any power carvers or airbrushes.  The decoys are then given a
hand-rubbed paste wax finish and glass or tack eyes. The decoys are weighted and
balanced and could be used as they were originally intended, but most will never
see the water.

 

 

Some typical
decoys, some by Steve Robbins and others are antique

 


Decoys: finished
and in the works

 


More works by
Steve Robbins (click
here for more
)

 

Steve’s shop not
only sells decoys, which he makes, but also a number of lures and he also
carries the spears that are used.

 


Hundreds of decoys

 


Fish spears and
more stuff

 

Steve Robbins is not
only a designer and crafter of these decoys, but he is also a “angler artist”
and has created some nice works for display.

 

 

Steve shows off
one of his favorite pieces; busy with a wall painting

 

Detail of one of
his paintings; Steve talks about ice-fishing; part of a muskie with a captured
fish…

all from one piece
of wood, except for the teeth, which are real

 

Indeed, I was
baited in and loved every minute of the visit!!

 

I spent a lot more
time than I wanted to with Steve Robbins, but I was glad to have spent the time
I did.  I was finally back on my way north with a couple more bridges left
to visit before heading back to Ontario.  I headed north on Route 72 all
the way to I-70 and then went west to I-75. I then went north to exit 78 which
would take me into Eldean, Ohio.  The city park has an old Covered Bridge,
that is still usable.

 

Map to the next
two bridges

 

This bridge was
originally known as Allen’s Mill Bridge.  It was built over the Great Miami
River in 1860 by the Hamilton Brothers. It is 224 feet long making it one of
Ohio’s longest covered bridges and the longest using a

Long system truss
.  The design is based on a patent by Colonel Stephen
H. Long which added strength through a series of hand-driven wedges. Much of
Colonel Long’s bridge building experience came from his employment with the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. While working for the railroad, he developed a plan
for a new covered bridge truss that became nationally known as the Long truss.
Long patented his design in 1830 and this is considered to be America’s first
science-based bridge design.  In 1835 and 1837 he patented improvements to
the design.

 



The Eldean Covered
Bridge, built in 1860

 

 

A couple of side
views of the Eldean Bridge

 

From Eldean, I
headed back to I-75 and four more miles north to exit 82, where I exited east
towards the town of Fletcher, Ohio.  This is a modern covered bridge, built
in 1998 over Gustin Ditch in Fletcher, near the Fletcher cemetery.  It is
only 47 feet long.

 



Some views of the
New Fletcher Covered Bridge, built in 1998

 

Further north for
the last two bridges

 

I continued east on
Ohio 235 towards DeGraff where I then headed north continuing through the
countryside on 235.  I followed this all the way to CR-13, a small country
road through Amish country.  There I saw plenty of sheep and an Amish man
who hid his face as I took a photo of the horse cart.  I also missed
getting a photo of three Amish boys on a giant wagon full of hay.

 


An Amish man with
his plow horses and some sheep relax in the yard of an Amish home

 

Just down the road
from there was the single lane McColly Bridge.  This bridge was built in
1876 by the Anderson Green Company using a Howe truss.  It is 135 feet
long.

 

 

The McColly Bridge
in Ohio Amish Country, built in 1876

 

From here I went
back to 235 and headed further north until it met with Ohio 708, which I then
took north towards Russell’s Point, Ohio.  I got to 366 and turned right to
drive along Indian Lake until I got to CR-38, where I made a left turn north. 
This led me to the Bickham Covered Bridge, which would be the last of my bridge
visits on this trip.

 

The Bickham Covered
Bridge was built in 1877 using the same design as the McColly Bridge.  It
has a 106 foot span over the south fork of the Miami River.

 


The Bickham Bridge
on CR-38

 

A car passes on
the bridge which was built in 1877

 

I had to return back
to Russell’s Point and on the way I stopped by an old fashioned drive-in where I
ordered a couple of hot dogs and some ice cream.  I really enjoyed this
little stop.

 



Coney Dogs, Fried
Pickles, burgers and Ice Cream in Russell’s Point, Ohio

 

Finally, on the way
back I passed by Indian Lake again.  There were a few islands that had
lodges or cabins on them.  A really nice place to live.

 

 

The expansive
Indian Lake and the falls by the side of the highway

 

After passing the
lake I headed back to I-75 and back on through Sarnia to Woodstock.  It was
a wonderful day through the countryside of Ohio.

 

 See more of
Sumoflam’s Trip Journals

sumoflam@sumoflam.biz

 

 

 


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