The Last Covered Bridge in Wisconsin - Cedarburg

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Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg
Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg
The Last Covered Bridge in Wisconsin sits 50ft East of its original location on Covered Bridge Road in Cedarburg Wisconsin. It was built in 1876 and was used until 1962. A county park with picnic tables and grills sits on the north bank of Cedar Creek and the covered bridge along with an additional wood bridge connects pedestrians to the south bank, a boy scout property. This location is a perfect place for a picnic or for lounging and reading a book. The covered bridge is a lasting vestige of the agricultural economy which is slowly fading in Ozaukee County.

Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg
Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg

Oxen driven hay wagons no longer cross the creek here, nor do pleasure drivers. The pedestrian pace of life along Covered Bridge Road is all that this bridge can bear. It's been out of commission since 1962 - the last remaining and the longest to be used of its era and kind in Wisconsin. It will undoubtedly succumb to vandals' flames as its sturdy brothers and sisters have already.

The Red Bridge's architecture and design is mostly unremarkable unless you are a devoted engineering historian with a heart that bleeds poetry at the sight of rough hewn vernacular constructions. Still, its presence speaks in solemn tones about the Germanic work ethic of Ozaukee's settlers who honored daily labor and toil as sacred in the same way that the holy Arab praises the reliable sky maps of desert stars - to work as a farmer was to be as steady as the Polestar, and the orbiting communities in this fresh and fertile land took direction, became places, from the truth of the field laborer who stood prouder than the ancient oaks shading these pleasant valley drives.

Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg
Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg
You can imagine the importance of a bridge if you live between Grafton and Saukville and are traveling East or West. Even today the Milwaukee River is a dividing obstacle; Cedar Creek much less so. But, consider the pace of 1876 beasts of burden. A 15 mile circumvention could cost the majority of a day. Cut off by the meandering Cedar Creek and its maze of marshlands, the Kaehlers, Krohns, Ernsts, Hickys, Minzlaffs, and Schellenbergs petitioned for a permanent passage from farms to markets.

In their time government was asked for more not less. And, in kind, the town of Cedarburg responded by constructing a community connecting bridge, built to last for centuries. To cover a bridge is to protect its load bearing timbers from rain - to keep it dry and free from rot. It's vertical end lattice truss is a competent structure that is similar to creating a solid tube where dynamic forces become equally distributed; tension and compression become one. Our tallest skyscrapers are built in such a way - they are tubes set on end with fenestration cut between isolines. Save for arson or a stray lightening bolt, few acts of nature or from man could bring the covered bridge down.

Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg
Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg
Today, building such a bridge would be considered a boondoggle, a bridge to nowhere, a waste of precious money. Perhaps, our 35 hours a week at the air conditioned office has made us forget what it is like to work day-in and day-out with the coming generations in mind.

In the recent past, it was expected that sons and daughters would work the same farms that their great grandparents had established - and it was understood that that the farm would support generations long into the distant future. So, when a young man worked to improve his farm he had future generations on his mind. He continually asked himself, "how will my great great grandchildren appreciate me?"

Today, in our transient lives we hardly have reason to consider how our own children will appreciate the places we make. The consequence is that we have lost our connection to our communities, and in so doing lost our will to sacrifice today in order to build things for a future we will never live to see. Though technology and economic changes provides us unprecedented leisure time, it has also resulted in a culture that is shortsighted and selfish. People today love to visit Cedarburg, to walk through a town where they can reach out and touch history. People say that it reminds them of a simpler time. Those times were not simpler ... they were harder. Much harder. But, the people who endured those hard times seem to have had something that today we lack.

This is the fascination of the last covered bridge in Wisconsin. Why should a pile of logs on an unremarkable highway be a tourist attraction? Because it is physical evidence of who we once were and how we once did things. The tunnel-like covered bridge is an echo chamber. If you listen closely you can hear the voices of every great generation who preceded us whispering: tout bien ou rein - build it right or build nothing.

Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg
Wisconsin's Last Covered Bridge - Cedarburg

Directions and Map

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Address for your GPS: 1728 Covered Bridge Road, Cedarburg WI
| Coordinates: N43.338099, W088.004988 |

From Milwaukee35 Minutes
From Madison1.5 Hours
From Green Bay1.5 Hours
From Wausau3 Hours
From Minneapolis5 Hours
From Chicago2 Hours


Flying Around the Covered Bridge in Cedarburg, WI from Russ on Vimeo.
An aerial trip around Covered Bridge park in Cedarburg, WI on August 10th, 2013.