Ohio Icon: Harpersfield Covered Bridge

Ohio Icon: Harpersfield Covered Bridge

A landscape shot of Harpersfield Bridge above the water.

Harpersfield Covered Bridge

Location: Harpersfield Road, about a half-mile west of State Route 534 in Ashtabula County.

Provenance: Constructed in 1868 to replace an earlier bridge lost in a flood, the double-span Harpersfield Covered Bridge measures 228 feet long and crosses the Grand River, a Lake Erie tributary and one of Ohio’s wild and scenic rivers. Its Howe trusses have characteristic X-shaped members with metal uprights, and that exceptionally strong design was used in the 1800s for lengthy roadway and railroad bridges. After part of the Harpersfield Covered Bridge was swept away in the infamous statewide flood of 1913, a 140-foot steel bridge was added to the wooden structure. Property surrounding the bridge and river became part of present-day Harpersfield Covered Bridge Metropark in 1961, and when the one-lane bridge was renovated in the 1990s, a pedestrian walkway for park visitors was added to it.

Significance: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975, the Harpersfield Covered Bridge turns 150 this year and, except when closed for repairs, has continuously carried traffic since 1868. It’s also one of the oldest and longest covered bridges in the state, a treasured local landmark, and probably the most photographed of the numerous covered bridges in Ashtabula County, which is known as the covered bridge capital of Ohio.

Currently: Because of its nostalgic architecture, long history, and beautiful setting, the Harpersfield Covered Bridge is a magnet for tourists and covered-bridge aficionados. “The bridge is majestic-looking,” says Ashtabula County Metroparks executive director Larry Frimerman, “and the views of it as well as from it are quite outstanding. You can see the river, the bluffs, and water cascading over the dam.”

In addition to serving as the park’s centerpiece, Harpersfield Covered Bridge is a featured attraction at events ranging from kayak races on the river to the annual Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival in October. Locals also love to fish from the bridge’s walkway, and the park’s amenities include a bait and gift shop.

It’s a little-known fact that: Because of maintenance costs, Ashtabula County’s engineering/highway department is considering a plan to replace the Harpersfield Covered Bridge with a new two-lane, double-walkway covered bridge.