Covered bridges across the United States are disappearing, but Rush County is committed to preserving the remainder of a rich piece of our community's heritage. The bridges were built mostly of Michigan white pine with screw-backs of native oak. Due to the influence of the Victorian Era, the bridges had carved brackets and gabled ends. Decorative scroll work graced each side of the entrances. Horizontal siding, a roof, and white paint completed the signature touches on a Kennedy bridge. Rush County remains home to six historic covered bridges, five of which are operational.
The bridges that you will visit are:
1. The Smith Bridge -- Built in 1877 by A.M. Kennedy & sons over the Big Flat Rock River, this bridge has one Burr arch truss, a length of 124 feet, and 8 foot overhangs at each portal. The portal entrances are 16 ft. wide and 13.5 ft high. The bridge derives its name from Dr. William H. Smith a prominent adjacent land owner who was a Civil War veteran and had served as a captain on a canal boat on the Whitewater canal in his youth. In 1986 the bridge was closed to traffic and then restored in 1996.
2. The Norris Ford Bridge -- The Norris Ford bridge was the last Kennedy covered bridge built in Rush county. It was erected in 1916 by E.L. Kennedy and Sons to replace a ford across the Big Flat Rock River. Although it was the second to last bridge ever built by the Kennedys, the techniques were almost identical to those used forty years before. This is now the only Kennedy bridge built in the 20th century which is still standing. It is named for the O.C. Norris family who owed extensive adjacent acreage. It is 154 ft. long with portals 16 ft. wide and 14 ft. high. It was restored in 1989.
3. The Offutt's Ford Bridge -- The Offutt Ford Bridge crosses the Little Blue River northeast of Arlington. It is a single-span structure erected in 1884 by Emmett and Charles Kennedy. The bridge is named for the Offutt family who were early settlers in the region. In a nearby cemetery is the grave of Sabert Offutt who cleared the land in 1830. This bridge has one Burr arch truss, is 85 feet long ad the portals are 16 feet wide and 13.4 feet high. The bridge was closed to traffic in 1986, was restored, and reopened in 1990.
4. The Forsythe Bridge -- Built in 1888 by E.L. Kennedy, this bridge over the Big Flat Rock River has one Burr arch truss. It was named for Asa Forsythe, the owner and operator of a nearly grist mill. Running 186 feet long, the portals are 16 feet wide and 15.5 feet high. It is the longest one-span covered bridge in Rush county.After being closed for over one year, the bridge had extensive restoration done in 1984.
5. The Moscow Bridge -- Originally built in 1886 by E.L. Kennedy over the Big Flat Rock River, this bridge has 2 Burr arch spans, each 165 feet long. The portal entrances are 15.5 feet wide and 13.5 ft. high. The bridge was demolished by a tornado on June 3, 2008, but was rebuilt by Dan R. Collon and Sons in 2010.
Watch this video to learn more about the history of Rush County covered bridges and to preview the ride route scenery.