BY KATHY PICKENS
The Greenville Standard
Our family was looking for something new, but reasonably close, to do over the Independence holiday. We decided to wind our way to north Alabama and see what we could see.
Five covered bridges, two rocky hikes to waterfalls, and one major Alabama city later, we know a little more about our state and each other.
Our covered-bridge tour began at Kymulga Park near Childersburg. Built in the 1860’s the grist mill and bridge can be toured for a small fee. Our tour guide was a gray-bearded expatriate Southern California surfer who seems to have blended right into small-town life.
Avoid this stop if you are allergic to bees as there are two large hives thriving in the mill walls. Apparently, the honey comb from the hives was once used to lubricate the machinery of the mill.
This 105-foot bridge is open for pedestrian traffic and leads to a network of nature trails. It is a single-span bridge constructed in the Howe truss style.
Our next stop was Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden. There is a fee to enter this park which contains the waterfall, botanical gardens, pioneer village, petting zoo, train ride, mini-golf course, campground, and the Gilliland-Reese Covered Bridge.
This bridge, built in 1899 over the Little Willis Creek in nearby Reece City, was moved to the park in 1967 due to the construction of I-59. This single-span, 85-foot bridge was modified during the move and renovation and is now considered to be of a Stringer construction type.
Our second day took us on a lazy, scenic drive through Blount County which boasts of three covered bridges. All of the bridges were built in the Town Lattice truss style and can be driven through slowly one vehicle at a time.
There are paths down to the water at each location. We lost our connection with Google Maps along this route and were grateful for the traditional map posted at the first site.
Horton Mill Bridge is a 220-foot two-span bridge. The current bridge was built in 1934, replacing the original built in 1894. At 70 feet above the Calvert Prong of the Little Warrior River, it is the highest covered bridge over any waterway in the U.S.
The Easley Bridge built in 1927 is the oldest covered bridge in Blount County and the shortest at only 95 feet. The Swann Bridge is the longest of the three at 324 feet. It is a three-span bridge and was built in 1933.
If you are looking for a road trip, consider visiting these or some of the others to be found in our state. I suggest walking across each bridge on foot to examine the worn wood, clever engineering, and unique touches.
The sound of the water rushing below, the old-wood smell, and the views from the bridge will be a treat for the senses. Drive over slowly with your windows down to experience that creaky-sounding, is-this-thing-gonna-hold-us feeling.