The Madison County Covered Bridge Festival has been a staple of autumn in southwest Iowa for the last 46 years. The festival, October 10-11, 2015, is centered around the iconic covered bridges of Madison County, some of which are now 145 years old!
Visitors to the festival are encouraged to download the free mobile app Iowa Culture for a Madison County Covered Bridge Festival Featured Tour. The tour features 14 historic sites, including all six of the covered bridges and the app’s mapping tools will help you find your way to all the sites.
Discover the Roseman Bridge and the Holliwell Bridge, both featured in the movie The Bridges of Madison County. Both bridges were built in the 1880s by Benton Jones. You’ll also find the Cedar Bridge, pictured on the cover of Robert James Waller’s novel The Bridges of Madison County.
Visit the Winterset City Park to see the Cutler-Donahoe Covered Bridge. This bridge, built in 1870 near Bevington, was relocated to a site over a natural ravine in the park in 1970. Also, in the park, you will find a marker noting Madison County as the home of the Delicious Apple. The Delicious Apple dates back to 1872, when farmer Jesse Hiatt discovered an unusual seedling in his orchard. He first called the apple “Hiatt’s Hawkeye”, but it was renamed at the Missouri State Fair in 1893 when a judge exclaimed the apple to be “Delicious!”
The tour also includes the Madison County Historical Complex, a gem of a museum with buildings from around the county. At the historical complex, you are able to step inside the Winterset Depot, see two different schools and the Bevington-Kaser Mansion, a home dating to 1856.
Madison County has long been noted for its large number of buildings built from native limestone. More than fifty of these buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and several of them are part of the Madison County Covered Bridge Festival Tour. Use the Iowa Culture app to see the Madison County Courthouse and the North River Stone Schoolhouse, both built from locally quarried limestone.
The history of Madison County is full of larger than life characters, including John Wayne and Henry A. Wallace. Wayne was born as Marion Robert Morrison in a four-room house in Winterset on May 26, 1907. You can visit his home, as well as the John Wayne Birthplace Museum – the only museum in the world dedicated to “The Duke”. The Wallace Family, who became a well-known political and publishing family, moved to Winterset in the 1870s. Patriarch Henry C. Wallace owned a house in Winterset, which is included on the tour. His son, Henry A. Wallace, was born in southwest Iowa and went on to serve as United States Secretary of Agriculture, Vice President of the United States and United States Secretary of Commerce.