Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review of a Visit to Madison County Iowa

Cedar Bridge at Madison County Iowa photo by mbgphoto
Cedar Bridge
On a recent road trip to a wedding in Minneapolis, my husband and I decided to make a side trip to photograph the covered bridges in Madison County Iowa.  We decided to stay the night in the small town of Winterset and were pleasantly surprised with all it had to offer.  Not only were we able to visit six covered bridges, but we discovered a wonderful  museum in memory of John Wayne, a great little city park, several wineries in the area, and a delightful small town square.

John Wayne Birthplace and Museum


John Waynes Birthplace at Madison County Iowa photo by mbgphoto

The small little white home above was the birthplace of John Wayne. John Wayne began his life in Winterset in 1907.  His family lived in this small four room house just a few block off the town square.  The house is a square house with the entrance and front  porch built on one of the corners, which I think gives it a very interesting look.  We were able to take a tour of the house and a docent inside the house shared some stories about John Wayne.  John Wayne was named Marion Robert Morrison and only took on the name John Wayne when he went in to acting.  When Marion was a young boy his parents moved to California.  When he was about 10 years old he would walk with his dog Duke and some fireman at a local station knew the name of the dog was Duke but didn't know the boys name.  When he would walk by they would say here comes big Duke and little Duke.  Marion liked the name and convinced his parents to let him go by the name Duke in school.  The name stuck through the years.

John Wayne Museum at Madison County Iowa photo by mbgphoto

Here is a photo of my husband, a big John Wayne fan, sitting in front of the John Wayne museum.  We enjoyed our visit to the museum.  The museum is 6100 square feet and opened in Winterset in 2015.  It features a gift shop, a theater (where we watched a 10 minutes feature on the films of John Wayne) and a large room full of memorabilia from the movies and career of John Wayne.  It was interesting seeing things like the surrey that was in "A Quiet Man" and various shirts and uniforms that Wayne wore in different movies.

City Park Winterset


The city park in Winterset is 76 acres full of recreation opportunities.  It has picnic areas, a sand volleyball pit, a campground, a hedge maze and a place for recreational vehicles to park and hook up.  Inside the park is the Cutler-Donahoe covered bridge which is 79 feet long.  It was built in 1870.
Cutler-Donahoe covered bridge photo by mbgphoto

The Clark tower is also in the park. It is a castle like structure that you can climb for a view of the surrounding area.  A plaque on the tower says it is in memory of the Clark's, a pioneer couple in Madison county in the 1800's.  We drove up a winding road through the woods to reach the tower and I enjoyed climbing and photographing the tower.

Clark Tower in Madison County Iowa photo by mbgphoto

Another interesting feature in the park is this old stone bridge.  I photographed it from several angle's.  I later found out that it was used in a scene from the movie "The Bridges of Madison County"

Bridge in Madison County photo by mbgphoto

Bridges of Madison County


The winters can be rough in Iowa and hard on the bridges, so several of the bridges were covered to preserve the large flooring timbers.  It was more expensive to replace the floors than to build the sides and the tops of the bridges.  There are six covered bridges in Madison County that we visited.  I found them all to be rather similar, with a bit a variation in the length.

The bridge at the beginning of this article is Cedar Bridge. It can be seen on the cover of the novel "The Bridges of Madison County".  This bridge was originally built in 1883, but was destroyed by arson.  The photo I took is of the replica which was dedicated in 2004.

Hogback bridge photo by mbgphoto

The bridge above is the Hogback bridge.  It is located just north of Winterset and was first built in 1884.  It was renovated in 1992.  This bridge is 97 feet long.

Hogback bridge photo by mbgphoto

The Holliwell bridge above is the longest of the bridges at 122 feet.  It is featured in the movie "The Bridges of Madison County".

Imes Covered Bridge photo by mbgphoto

The Imes Covered Bridge was built in 1870.  It is just 81 feet in length and sits over a ravine near St. Charles, Iowa.  

The Roseman bridge photo by mbgphoto

The Roseman bridge was built in 1883 and renovated in 1992.  This bridge was featured in both the book and movie versions of "Bridges of Madison County".  I have read the book and seen the movie several years ago but now that I have visited the bridges I think I will check out the movie again.  The movie stars Clint Eastwood as a photographer who has gone to Madison County to photograph the bridges.  While there he falls for a local housewife who gives him directions to one of the bridges.

Visiting Winterset


My husband and I both enjoyed our visit to Winterset.  We stayed two nights in the local Super 8 motel.  The innkeeper at the hotel, Bill, was so friendly and helpful that he added to the enjoyment of our visit.  He was always ready with helpful hints and directions.  Winterset is located just 14 miles south of Des Moines Iowa off of Hwy 35.

Zazzle Products from my Photographs

Cedar Bridge Travel Mug
Cedar Bridge Travel Mug by mbgphoto
Design your own personal coffee mugs online at Zazzle.
Scenes from Madison County Iowa Calendar
Scenes from Madison County Iowa Calendar by mbgphoto
View other Covered bridges Calendars at

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. I loved looking at your photographs of the Bridges of Madison County (Iowa), Mary Beth. And what an interesting way to build a corner house (John Wayne's boyhood home), with the front door facing the corner. Very unique. This is a fascinating article. I'll have to share it with my son & family in Davenport, Iowa. It looks like it may be a place they'd like to go visit.

  2. I'm so glad you made the calendar, Mary Beth! Loved reading about your visit to Madison County and, of course, I always enjoy your gorgeous photos.

    1. Thanks Susan and thank you for the suggestion of the calendar. Great idea.

  3. Your photos are really beautiful Mary Beth! I love the shot of John Wayne's house. I also appreciated the information. I had no idea how he got his nickname! That is a really cute story. The bridges are also quite interesting. Covered bridges have always seemed a little scary to me, but it makes perfectly good sense that they would protect the bridge floor with a cover. Really great article! I enjoyed it immensely.

  4. Such beautiful photos! I'd love to see the John Wayne Museum. My husband is a huge fan.

  5. Such beautiful photos! I'd love to see the John Wayne Museum. My husband is a huge fan.


Most Recent Reviews on Review This Reviews

Search for Reviews by Subject, Author or Title

The Review This Reviews Contributors

SylvestermouseSylvestermouseDawn Rae BDawn Rae BMbgPhotoMbgPhotoBrite-IdeasBrite-IdeasWednesday ElfWednesday ElfOlivia MorrisOlivia MorrisTreasures by BrendaTreasures by BrendaThe Savvy AgeThe Savvy AgeMargaret SchindelMargaret SchindelRaintree AnnieRaintree AnnieLou16Lou16Sam MonacoSam MonacoTracey BoyerTracey BoyerRenaissance WomanRenaissance WomanBarbRadBarbRadBev OwensBev OwensBuckHawkBuckHawkDecorating for EventsDecorating for EventsHeather426Heather426Coletta TeskeColetta TeskeMissMerFaeryMissMerFaeryMickie_GMickie_G


Review This Reviews is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor

Susan DeppnerSusan Deppner

We may be apart, but
You Are Not Forgotten

“As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and or Etsy (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from purchases.” Disclosure Statement