Covered bridges remind us of days gone by

People traveling on the northern section of Highway 21 between Potosi and St. Louis have probably seen the sign north of the Hillsboro exit pointing to the direction of Sandy Creek Covered Bridge.

This historic bridge, along with the accompanying state park, is under the care and supervision of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

At one time it was estimated that Missouri had over 30 covered bridges, and Jefferson County had six of them. Presently the state has only four covered bridges left and one of them is the Sandy Creek Bridge. 

John H. Morse built this wood-covered bridge — which was 74 feet, 6 inches long and 18 feet, 10 inches wide, with an entrance height of 13 feet — in 1872 as a means for people to travel from Hillsboro to St. Louis.

The bridge has the unique appearance of an old red barn.

There were many advantages to building a bridge with a roof and sides, but the main purpose behind covering a bridge was to protect the intricate structural network of iron and timber trusses from the weather. 

Engineers have stated that uncovered wooden bridges typically have a lifespan of only 10 to 15 years but a covered bridge has a life expectancy at least three times greater than an uncovered bridge.

The coverings also added strength, which reduced sagging and listing. Riders in buggies and carriages often used the bridges as shelters from the wind, snow and rain.

The special design of the Sandy Creek Bridge might have given horses and other livestock the appearance and assurance that they were entering a barn and not crossing a body of water, and/or concealing the height of the bridge from the ground.

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. By 1984, extensive flood damage demanded an extensive restoration of the bridge. 

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They serve our generation as eloquent reminders of the fabric of life in days gone by.

The Sandy Creek Covered Bridge is nestled within a tranquil and well-maintained 211-acre park. This historic site has paved parking with two handicap spaces.

An accessible picnic site is located directly off the parking lot and offers a paved pathway and pad, an extended-end picnic table, and a pedestal grill.

The other picnic sites are also on concrete pads and also have pedestal grills and enclosed trash containers.

A drinking fountain and water hydrant are located along the pathway that winds under huge shade trees to the bridge. The path to the bridge also passes by an information booth that lists some general facts on covered bridges and the history of the Sandy Creek Bridge, in particular.

The paths are loose gravel and there are sitting benches at various locations where a person can rest and enjoy the scenery and watch the many bird species.

Accessible toilets have a handicap parking space with a paved pathway. There are many trails to explore that wind through the park and along Sandy Creek.

People wade and swim in the creek but a sign warns everyone that you do so at your own risk.

For more information, contact Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site, c/o Mastodon State Historic Site,
1050 Charles J. Becker Dr., Imperial, MO 63052-3524; or by phone at (636) 464-2976.

(Bill Wakefield runs the Traveler’s St. Louis office and can be reached at

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