Discover covered bridges and much more in Parke Co., Indiana

Art Weber

        So many bridges, so little time.
        That’s the way it feels when you visit Parke County, Indiana, the self-proclaimed covered bridge capital of the world. It’s hard to argue the point. At one time there were 53 covered bridges there; there’s still a whopping 31.
        When you need a change of pace from scouring the countryside for bridges, there are two terrific Indiana state parks – Turkey Run and Shades – along with a smattering of friendly small towns to explore. Even better, enrich the experience with a stay at Turkey Run Inn, strategically located with easy access to that park’s extraordinary hiking trail system.         The reason for so many bridges is simple. Parke County has a number of streams and creeks that people had to cross. Back when most of them were built it was to accommodate horse and buggies, the covering was to protect the wooden bridge deck from the effects of the elements. They’re so well-built and preserved that an incredible 21 of those bridges are still in service carrying vehicles.
        So many people come to visit the bridges of Parke County that the tourist center in the county seat of Rockville has organized five different covered bridge tour routes, each about 30 miles long. Follow any of them and you’ll find yourself on a variety of roads ranging from a two-lane state highway to well-maintained gravel through-roads. The county is mostly rolling farmland laced by streams with liberal acreages of forest and meadow. Here and there are occasional small – sometimes very small – towns with names like Mecca, Mansfield, and Bridgeton, that are home for down-home diners and storefronts of small historic business districts.
        In the historic old town of Bridgeton, you’ll find Collum’s General Store and the Bridgeton Mill, the oldest continuously operating mill west of the Alleghenies. Don’t pass up the chance to go into the mill and talk with Mike Roe, the mill’s passionate owner who’s dead set on returning the mill to waterpower. For now, the big French buhrstones are powered by an old electric trolley motor, turning out a host of stone-ground products available for purchase. Before continuing the tour, make a stop across Raccoon Creek for a photo of the mill reflected in the waters below the dam and the impressive double-span, 245-foot Bridgeton Covered Bridge.
        Much of the route to Bridgeton Mill and bridge is lined with huge fields of corn and grains. Distant tree lines wind their way, following the streams. Here and there, the tree lines open up and the nose of a covered bridge pokes through. Those bridges helped farmers get the crops off those fields and to the mill for grinding into meal and flour. Bridgeton Mill is a cherished holdover from those days, still doing business much as it did when the original was built in the early 1800s.
        Parke County is a four-hour drive from our area, a perfect adventure for a long weekend. For more information go to and For information on Turkey Run State Park and Inn start with


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