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Clarkson Covered Bridge, Cullman

4.5
Clarkson Covered Bridge is a true icon of America's rich past. First built in 1904, the unique truss bridge (invented in the U.S.) stretches 270 feet over Crooked Creek. The unusual lattice style of planks on the structure form a webbing which, in conjunction with only vertical forces used on the abutments, allow the bridge to withstand an excessive amount of weight. A Civil war skirmish, known as the Battle of Hog Mountain was fought here on April 30, 1863. The Cullman County Commission and the citizens of Cullman restored the site in 1976 for the American Bicentennial and added a park with shaded picnic grounds, a Dogtrot Log Cabin, Grist Mill and hiking trails.

Clarkson Covered Bridge, one of Cullman County's most well known attractions, is also one of the area's most historically rich sites. Once used regularly by farmers and travelers to cross Crooked Creek, the weatherworn bridge is now closed to traffic, the centerpiece of a park built in period fashion to showcase the bridge and its historical significance.

The history of the site began many years before the first plank was ever put into place. During the Civil War, Union Col. Abel Streight led a small band of men through Cullman County toward Rome, Georgia, in an ill-fated attempt to destroy the Western Atlantic Railroad that supplied Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg's army in middle Tennessee. Pursued by the famous (and perhaps infamous) Confederate Gen. Nathaniel B. Forrest, Streight engaged in a number of battles in Cullman County that culminated in the running skirmish now known as Streight's Raid. One of these battles, the Battle of Hog Mountain, took place on April 30, 1863, and was fought in the vicinity of the site where Clarkson Bridge now stands. Many Civil War artifacts have been recovered along the banks of Crooked Creek, the narrow waterway spanned by Clarkson Bridge.

The bridge itself was constructed in 1904 for the cost of $1,500 on property once owned by J.W. Legg. Originally called Legg Bridge after the original landowner, the structure of the 270-foot bridge was quite unique. It was constructed based upon a design that had been developed and patented by Ithiel Town of Connecticut in 1820. Called the Town Lattice Truss, the bridge building system employed an elaborate framework of lumber that formed a cross pattern similar to that of a garden trellis. The wooden crosses were connected at each intersection by thick double pegs and were connected to large horizontal chords at both the top and bottom of the bridge. This innovative design allowed the bridge to be virtually self-supporting and capable of withstanding tremendous loads without sagging. Clarkson Bridge differs from many other such bridges in that iron carriage bolts were used to connect the lattice framework as opposed to the older design, which called for heavy oak pins.

In 1921, a huge storm snapped the bridge in half, one part remaining in place while the other floated downstream. Washed away by the rain-swollen torrents of Crooked Creek, the lost half of Clarkson Bridge was later found lodged in a narrow spot of the creek bed and was salvaged. The locals worked hard to save the scattered parts of the ruined bridge and were rewarded soon after when the county was able to hire a contractor to repair the bridge using mostly original materials. The cost of the project to repair the bridge, completed one year later, was $1,500.

On June 25, 1974, Clarkson Covered Bridge was named to the National Register of Historic Places. Shortly thereafter, in 1975, the Cullman County Commission restored the site with the help of concerned citizens as part of the American Bicentennial Project, embellishing the grounds with hiking trails, a picnic area, and two period structures built to accent the historical nature of the bridge: a Dogtrot log cabin and a working grist mill. Located just off U.S. Highway 278 in Bethel, Clarkson Bridge is the site of the Old Fashioned Days event, an annual fundraiser for the park system, as well as numerous weddings, car shows and various other activities.
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Clarkson Covered Bridge reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating
TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
129 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • Good spot to stop for a picnic. Bridge is awesome with good photo opportunities. They also have a museum to browse through.  more »
  • Address was listed wrong but enjoyed our time exploring once we found it. Loved walking the old bridge and trail even though it was raining.  more »
Google
  • Interesting bridge in a beautiful setting. Gorgeous drive in the country with easy directions. I met this bull on the drive there. So you never know who you are going to meet on your "walk abouts". I am glad that I took this side trip. You will enjoy it, too.
  • We were married here, so I'm strongly biased toward the place. What is a shame is how worn-down it has gotten. The bridge is well kept, but the park is not in good shape. The pond looks neglected and half-full. The buildings are needing a good paint job.

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