Holliwell Covered Bridge (eventually to Bevington)
[Historical excerpts from marker]
The Middle River has its origin in south-central Guthrie County. However, the navigable section of Middle River begins in east-central Adair County near Middle River Forest County Park. Middle River is a scenic stream that flows easterly through a mixture of lazy country side of croplands and pasture, rolling forested hills and limestone bluffs. It twists and turns through these landforms creating a moderately challenging paddle, especially at high or low water levels. This stream provides an exciting paddle with occasional chutes and ledges that can be navigated with moderate effort. Water levels are most enjoyable for paddling in spring, early summer and fall.
Along with the natural beauty found along Middle River, there are also a few man-made attractions that add to the scenery and water-trail experience. Spanning the river is two of Madison County's famous "Bridges of Madison County", Roseman Covered Bridge and Holliwell Covered Bridge. Paddlers must also portage around the historic "ford" at Pammel Park that was built in the early 1900's, and while making portage one can also catch a glimpse of the "Harmon Tunnel" originally constructed in 1858.
Middle River eventually empties into the Des Moines River near Carlisle in northern Warren County - with this navigable section of river being approximately 100 miles in length. The designated Middle River Water Trail begins at Middle River Forest County Park in Adair County and currently ends at the historic Holliwell Covered Bridge approximately 3½ miles SE of Winterset, covering a distance of just over 45 miles. Enjoy your exploration of Middle River!
The most interesting historical and cultural aspects along this stretch of Middle River are obviously the Holliwell Covered Bridge and the beautiful natural resources that define the Middle River Valley. The Holliwell Bridge was one of the first covered bridges built in Madison County as it crossed Middle River on the Winterset Indianola Road, which was considered the main highway carrying pioneers heading west through Winterset. The people came for the rich soil they called the Hoosier Prairie, and the abundant streams. There were forests along these streams of sugar maple, black walnut and towering cotton woods. Buffalo, elk and deer roamed the woods and prairie. There was lumber and stone for building. Prairie Rivers like the Middle River are living representatives of the resources that provided for the life we now enjoy. In 1880, Holliwell Bridge replaced the original open wood frame bridge that was first constructed in 1855. Holliwell is notably the longest of the covered bridges. Its structure is also very unique, being of the covered wood bow truss type. The two center top beams are 39 feet long and arc from 9' to 13.2' above the floor. The two end top beams are 16 feet long and arc from 0' to 9' above the floor. The total length of the main bow truss span is 110 feet, while the approaches span 60 feet for a total length of 170 feet.
Madison County escaped the most recent glaciations of approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago and is thus part of the Southern Iowa Drift Plain. The exterior appearance of Madison County is prominently dominated by the rolling hills which are shaped and supported by thick layers of limestone and shale formed millions of years ago during the era when a vast area of the Midwest was part of the Carboniferous Sea. The geology of Madison County becomes most striking when canoeing our rivers. Dispersed primarily through the central region of Madison County, majestic limestone walls and cliffs, with layers of shale intermixed, greet river users, with the most prominent high cliffs over 140' in height, found along Middle River about 1 mile above Pammel Park.