Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Along the Way: Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge

Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge
Ashtabula, Ohio
I had just made the left turn onto Seven Hills Road from Route 11, heading towards Chestnut Grove Cemetery when Zech asked if I noticed the sign that announced a nearby covered bridge. We were visiting Ashtabula, Ohio, to pay our respects to Philip Bliss, the noted gospel writer who died in the Ashtabula Train Disaster that happened here on December 29, 1876. More information about Philip and the disaster can be found here: Philip Bliss and also here: Ashtabula Train Disaster.

I admitted I had not seen the sign, so I found a spot to turn around and followed the signs. At the first intersection, we turned left onto State Road. A short distance later we could see the covered bridge before us. A parking area before the covered bridge was on the left and I pulled into it. The gated road that led down to the Ashtabula River was open so I drove down to the lower lot.

We got out and took in the covered bridge before us. “They definitely built covered bridges much differently in Ohio than back home,” Zech marveled as we both just stared. What I didn’t realize at the moment was the Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge is the longest covered bridge in the United States and the fourth longest in the world.

Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge from parking area
On the estern bank of the Ashtabula River
Bridge from the western bank of the Ashtabula River
We followed the old roadway to a point under the bridge and stared up at the bridge that towered ninety-three feet above us.  The bridge was constructed in 2008 at a cost of $7.78 million and has a length of 613 feet. The Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge was built in four sections and each one being supported by three concrete pillars.

At one time another covered bridge existed here. The road to the lower lot was the originally State Road and the covered bridge, known as the Crooked Gulf Covered Bridge. This covered bridge was bypassed by another bridge in 1945 and was finally lost to time and progress in 1949.

After we took some pictures from below, we drove up to the upper parking lot. We immediately noticed that there were two walkways (one on each side of the bridge) and decided we had to go investigate this a little more. Walking along the road, we finally were at the bridge and entered the walkway that paralleled the road. I want to state that the path to get to the covered bridge – it was a busy road and there was a lot of traffic the day Zech and I visited, so please be careful walking along the road.

Walkaway inside the bridge
The feel of cars passing by at fast speeds both felt and sounded weird. The bridge gently vibrated as vehicles passed and the sounds of them passing echoed along the bridge

And then the first big truck passed through the bridge. I’m not sure which of us felt fear the most as the bridge bounced as the truck passed. I’m not going to lie – while I knew that the bridge was safe, I was ready to get off of it.

We arrived at the far end of the bridge and decided we were going to walk back on the opposite side of the bridge. We quickly crossed the road on a blind turn and began our return trip on the opposite side.

Road inside the bridge
Once we had returned to the parking area, we stopped at an information pavilion to read about the bridge and the Indian Trails Park. After we finished reading, we took a couple more pictures before driving to the western side of the bridge. We followed the old road to a small parking area. After taking a couple pictures from this side, we headed towards the Ashtabula Train Disaster site.

I want to note again: the traffic the day we visited was heavy. The road curves at both ends of the bridge and traffic was moving quickly. If you choose to visit, please be cautious as you walk along the edge of State Road and keep an eye on any children.

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