Located on Whites Bridge Road near Belding in Ionia County, Michigan, is the Whites Covered Bridge. Spanning 120 feet across the Flat River, the Whites Covered Bridge is a Brown truss covered bridge that was built in 1867 by Jared N. Brazee and J.N. Walker, builders of several covered bridges in this area of Michigan. The bridge's name comes from Levi J. White, a member of a prominent pioneer family that has a long history in the area. The crossing of the Flat River here was first known as White's Crossing before the first primitive bridge was built. In 1840, a bridge of log corduroy construction was erected by Levi White, but not to the objection to a local Ottawa tribe, due to the crossing's proximity to a large nearby oak tree used for gatherings. A second crossing was built in 1856 but was later destroyed by an ice jam. This led to the construction of the covered bridge in 1867, which cost $1,700 to build. The through-truss design that was patented by Josiah Brown Jr., of Buffalo, New York utilized a gable roof in its design, using sawn trusses and sheeted over with rough pine boards. Wooden pegs and square iron nails were used to secure the various parts of the bridge. The original structural system consisted of a vertical truss along each side with top and bottom sway cross bracing. It is said that it took 84 days to build the coverage bridge, using only the help of horses and oxen.
For years, the Whites Covered Bridge had become a beloved bridge and local favorite. While the bridge itself did not see much traffic, it had traditionally been lit up for the holidays, and its pastoral setting made for great photography. However, the bridge was destroyed by fire due to an act of arson on the morning of July 7, 2013. Efforts were then made to replace the covered bridge with a suitable replica using modern covered bridge construction standards. In August 2015, the Whites Bridge Historical Society and the Ionia County Road Commission hired AECOM to design a replica covered bridge to closely match the original covered bridge, which would be placed atop the remaining bridge abutments. Davis Construction won the bid to build the new covered bridge. Completed in June 2020 at a cost of approximately $690,000 from sources including grants and private donations. A higher clearance of 12 feet was used for the new bridge, allowing vehicles such as school buses a means to cross the covered bridge.
I had the chance to visit the Whites Covered Bridge in the spring of 2023. What I found was a magnificent and quiet covered bridge, along with a good fishing spot had I brought a rod and reel with me. There is a small parking area on the north side of the bridge so you can safely enjoy visiting the bridge.
|Side profile of the covered bridge.
|South portal of the covered bridge on Whites Bridge Road.
|Historical marker that was in place before the old covered bridge succumbed to fire.
|North portal of the covered bridge.
How to Get There:
Sources and Links:
Water Winter Wonderland - Whites Covered Bridge - Belding MI
The Historical Marker Database - White's Bridge
Travel the Mitten - Fallasburg, Ada and White's Bridge - Covered Bridges of Kent and Ionia Counties
MLive.com - After arson fire, Whites Bridge is close to being rebuilt (1/26/2020)
MLive.com - History in the rubble: How arson-struck Whites Bridge became a West Michigan landmark (7/7/2013)
American Society of Civil Engineers - Michigan covered bridge replaced with nearly identical replica