Along the Way: Harpersfield Covered Bridge

The Harpersfield Covered Bridge and steel Bridge, crossing over the Grand River – looking from the northern side of the bridge

I left the Windsor Mills Covered Bridge in Ashtabula County, Ohio and headed north on Route 534 towards Geneva. The day was proving to be ideal for exploring the county’s covered bridges. When the GPS announced I had arrived at the next covered bridge on this day’s journey, it was not in sight. As I crossed the Grand River, I glanced to my left and saw my next destination – the Harpersfield Covered Bridge. Note: Windsor Mills Covered Bridge can be found here: Windsor Mills.

I followed the signs and soon found myself staring at one of the more interesting covered bridges I had ever encountered. The bridge crossing over the Grand River was part covered bridge and part steel bridge and I had to wonder why it looked so strange. My immediate thought was: “Part of the bridge had washed away and was replaced by a steel structure.” I would soon discover that I was wrong about the look of the bridge.

Parking on the southern side of the bridge, I stepped out and studied the covered bridge and its surroundings. I was immediately taken in by the sound of the waters as they plunged over the Grand River Dam, just east of the bridge. As I walked to the bridge, I noticed it was a good day to be fishing – people stood on the bridge’s walkway with their lines in the water. I stopped at the historical marker standing guard at the bridge’s southern entrance to read some of the bridge’s history. The first bridge built at this location was in 1814 and was destroyed in a flood in the spring of 1868. The two hundred and twenty-eight-foot, two-span covered bridge was erected in 1868 using a Howe Truss design. Until the erection of the Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge, the Harpersfield Covered Bridge was the longest covered bridge in Ohio. Note: The Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge can be found here: Smolen-Gulf.

In 1913, severe flooding destroyed a number of Ashtabula County’s covered bridges and while the Harpersfield Covered Bridge withstood the flood, the northern approach to the bridge was destroyed. The flooding had cut a second channel, widening the Grand River. To remedy the problem, a steel bridge was erected to span the channel and connected the northern end of the bridge to dry land. This bridge extension was one hundred and forty feet long and according to newspapers at the time, ten feet of the original covered bridge had to be removed so the two structures could securely connect.

Although the bridge remains in use, it was bypassed in 1959. Note: Despite the bridge being bypassed, which keeps heavier vehicles off of it, the bridge was extremely busy the day of my visit. Of all the covered bridges I’ve visited over the years, I can say this was one of the busiest – if not the busiest covered bridge – I had ever visited.

Beginning in 1957, the Harpersfield Covered Bridge has undergone numerous repairs. That year, steel supports were added to help the three stone pillars the bridge originally rested upon. In the early 1990s a complete renovation was done, adding the walkway on the western side of the bridge which was rededicated in the autumn of 1992.

The bridge has an important role in the Ashtabula MetroPark System. Fifty-three acres were purchased on the northern side of the bridge in 1961 to create the first of the county’s parks.

I walked a short distance on the walkway, but more people were arriving to fish, so rather than fighting my way through the crowd to cross the bridge and then cross it again to get back to my vehicle, I decided to leave that adventure for another day. Passing back through the bridge, I paused at the northern side of the covered bridge to take some photographs before I headed eastward, to explore and enjoy my covered bridge tour of Ashtabula County.

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