Everything You Need to Know About the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site

Last updated on June 29th, 2023 at 04:15 am.

If you live in St. Louis and are searching for covered bridges near me, you’ll quickly find that it’s the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site. The historic covered bridge is located in Jefferson County off Highway 55 and is just 45 minutes from St. Louis.

This is a fun day trip and we visited the bridge on our way to the Getaway Cabins in St. Francois.

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site

Missouri is home to four historic covered bridges. We have a goal to visit all of these beautiful and historic structures during our travels around Missouri. Our first covered bridge excursion was to visit the Locust Creek Covered Bridge in Laclede and we were excited to finally make it to Sandy Creek.

View of sandy creek bridge and park

We visited in January, so our photos don’t reflect how lush and green the area can be spring through early fall. Our hope is to return next time we are headed towards St. Louis.

Covered Bridges in Missouri

covered bridges in Missouri map

It’s estimated Missouri had 30 covered bridges at one time and while today the state only has four covered bridges still standing, they are beautiful and historic structures.

Visiting them will take you along some of the most beautiful backroads in the state. Many of these are roads that you would never find yourself on unless you were hunting down Missouri covered bridges.

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site

Alexa and Todd Meisler at the Sandy Creek Bridge

The Sandy Creek Covered Bridge was built in 1872 by John Hathaway Morse (his bid to build it was $2,000) and is named for the creek it was built above. In May of 1886 high water destroyed the bridge and it was rebuilt that same year by Henry Steffin. He was able to use about half of the original timbers and so the reconstruction cost was $899.

The bridge is 74 feet and 6 inches long and 18 feet, 10 inches wide with an entrance height of 13 feet.

The bridge is a Howe-truss design, which means it uses a series of diagonal wooden beams to support the weight of the bridge and distribute it evenly.

The bridge was used for vehicle traffic until 1984, when it was closed to motorized vehicles. Today, it is open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic and is one of the best places in Missouri to see a covered bridge.

Outdoor Interpretive Display

outdoor interpretive display

The park has a great four-sided outdoor interpretive display sharing a lot of information about the Howe-Truss bridge construction, the restorations of the Sandy Creek bridge and what each one entailed. There is also information about the history of covered bridges in America, and the covered bridges in Missouri.

The bridge is a popular spot for photography, and visitors can walk through it and take in the scenic views of Sandy Creek.

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge History

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge was part of a county building program that was begun in Jefferson County after the American Civil War.

The Sandy Creek bridge had it’s first restoration in 1952. It was restored to its historic appearance in 1984 and underwent a major restoration project in the late 1990s, which included repairs to the roof and structure, replacement of some of the timber, and reinforcement of the foundation.

In 1970, the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places, (you can see the nomination form here) which recognizes important historic sites and structures throughout the United States.

Howe-truss design of the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge

Sandy Creek Bridge howe truss

The Sandy Creek Covered Bridge was designed using a Howe truss, which was a common type of truss used in covered bridges during the 19th century. Sandy Creek Covered Bridge is one of three historic Howe-truss bridges in Missouri.

Howe-truss bridge design

The Howe truss was developed by William Howe in 1840 and was used extensively in covered bridges, as well as in other types of buildings and structures.

The Howe truss is characterized by its use of diagonal wooden members to support the weight of the bridge and distribute it evenly. In the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge, the diagonal members are made of timber and are held in place by iron bolts and nuts. The vertical members, or posts, are also made of timber and are placed at regular intervals along the length of the bridge.

The use of the Howe truss allowed the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge to span the distance across Sandy Creek while also supporting the weight of vehicles and pedestrians. The truss design also provided stability to the bridge, making it more resistant to the high winds and other environmental factors that can affect bridges.

The bridge’s roof is supported by a system of purlins and rafters, which are also made of timber. The roof is covered in cedar shingles, which are spaced apart to allow for ventilation and prevent moisture buildup. The windows on the sides of the bridge allow natural light to enter the interior and provide ventilation during hot weather.

Overall, the design of the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge is a testament to the skill and ingenuity of its builders, and it remains an important example of the use of covered bridges in the United States during the 19th century.

Why Do They Restore Covered Bridges?

bolt on interior of sandy creek bridge

Covered bridges were an important innovation in transportation in the United States. They are an important part of our history and heritage as well. In addition, the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge is one of three Howe-truss bridges remaining in Missouri, making it a landmark of sorts.

Why Did They Cover Bridges?

Covered bridges have a long history in America, and many are listed within the National Register for Historic Places.

The main purpose of covering bridges was to protect the wooden trusses and other structural components from the elements, particularly rain and snow. Uncovered wooden bridges were susceptible to rot and decay from exposure to moisture, which could cause the bridge to become unstable and unsafe for use.

Covering a bridge helped to protect the structural components from moisture, which prolonged the life of the bridge and reduced the need for frequent repairs and replacements. Additionally, a covered bridge provided shelter for travelers and livestock during inclement weather, making it a more comfortable and convenient way to cross bodies of water.

Covered bridges were particularly popular in the United States in the 19th century, when the majority of bridges were made of wood. Today, many historic covered bridges have been preserved as important cultural landmarks, and some are still in use for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

Sometimes called “kissing bridges,” covered bridges can be found in over half of the United States. They were build to provide protection to both pedestrians and vehicles.

A covered bridge is a timber-truss bridge that has both a roof and sides. The roof and siding can create either a completely enclosed, or almost enclosed structure.

The “truss” in a truss bridge refers to the architectural design of the bridge’s support beams and trusses typically form a series of triangles to provide support to a structure. Below is examples of the Howe-truss system used to build the Locust Creek covered bridge.

Sandy Creek was a toll bridge and constructed of white pine.

Amenities at the Sandy Creek State Historic Site

bathroom at Sandy Creek Bridge state park

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site includes 205 acres of land adjoining the bridge.

picnic table and bbq at sandy creek bridge

They Sandy Creek bridge is maintained by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and there are some nice amenities at the park including bathrooms, picnic tables, bbq’s, and maintained trails.

Why were the bridges covered in the midwest?

Most of America’s covered bridges were built between 1825 and 1875.

Covered bridges were built and used in the Midwest for many of the same reasons as in other parts of the United States. However, there were also some regional factors that contributed to the popularity of covered bridges in the Midwest.

One factor was the prevalence of wooden bridges in the Midwest. During the 19th century, when covered bridges were most popular, wooden bridges were the most common type of bridge in the Midwest. These bridges were often made of locally-sourced materials such as oak, pine, and hickory, which were abundant in the region.

Another factor was the Midwest’s climate. The region experiences a range of weather conditions, including heavy rainfall and snowfall, as well as high winds and occasional tornadoes. Covered bridges provided protection from the elements, which helped to extend the life of the bridges and keep them in good condition.

Covered bridges were also popular in the Midwest because they were often built by local communities, using materials and labor from the surrounding area. This made them a symbol of community pride and a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the region’s builders.

Today, many historic covered bridges still stand in the Midwest, serving as important cultural landmarks and reminders of the region’s history and heritage.

Sandy Creek Covered Bridge Fun facts

toll rate for sandy creek bridge
  1. The bridge was originally built for a cost of around $2,000, which was funded by local residents and the county government.
  2. The bridge was used for more than a century to connect the communities of Sandy and Morse Mill in Jefferson County, Missouri.
  3. The bridge was featured in the 1993 film “The Getaway,” starring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. It was used as a backdrop for a car chase scene in the movie.
  4. The bridge was closed to vehicle traffic in 1984 due to concerns about its structural integrity. It was later restored and reopened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic in 1998.
  5. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of only four remaining covered bridges in Missouri.
  6. The bridge is also known as the “Morse Mill Covered Bridge” and the “Sandy Creek Bridge.”
  7. The bridge’s roof is made of cedar shingles, which are spaced apart to allow for ventilation and prevent moisture buildup.
  8. The bridge is a popular spot for fishing, as Sandy Creek is home to a variety of fish species, including smallmouth bass, sunfish, and catfish.

Directions to Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site

Sandy Creek bridge in Hillsboro, Missouri

Address: 9090 Old Lemay Ferry Road, Hillsboro, MO 63050

If you’re interested in visiting the the Sandy Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site, it is located in the town of Hillsboro, Missouri, just south of St. Louis. It’s a great example of a historic covered bridge and a testament to the ingenuity of its builders.

Driving Time from St. Louis: About 33 Miles | 45 minutes

Directions to Sandy Creek Covered Bridge from St. Louis:

One possible route to drive to the bridge from St. Louis:

  1. Take I-55 south from St. Louis for about 28 miles.
  2. Take exit 174B for MO-141 south toward Fenton and continue for about 2 miles.
  3. Merge onto MO-30 west and continue for about 7 miles.
  4. Turn right onto MO-HH and continue for about 2 miles.
  5. Turn right onto Morse Mill Road and continue for about 1 mile.
  6. Turn left onto Sandy Creek Road and continue for about 0.5 miles.
  7. The Sandy Creek Covered Bridge will be on your left.

Driving Time from Columbia: About 140 Miles | 2 Hours and 15 Minutes

Directions to Sandy Creek Covered Bridge from Columbia:

  1. Take Hwy 63 South toward Jefferson City for about 25 miles.
  2. Merge onto US-54 W/US-63 S via the ramp to Jefferson City and continue for about 1.5 miles.
  3. Take the US-50 W exit and follow signs for US-50 E/US-63 S for about 81 miles.
  4. Follow signs for Interstate 44 E/U.S. 50 E and merge onto I-44 E/US-50 E and continue for about 17 miles.
  5. Take exit 264 to merge onto MO-109 S and continue for about 2 miles.
  6. Turn left onto State Rd W and continue for about 6 miles.
  7. Continue onto Gravois Rd and then to Continue straight onto State Hwy MM/Gravois Rd for about 4 miles.
  8. Merge onto MO-21 S via the ramp to Hillsboro and continue for about 4.5 miles.
  9. Take the Old Missouri 21 exit toward Gold Man and keep left.
  10. Turn left onto Goldman Spur Rd.
  11. Turn right onto Old Lemay Ferry Rd

Plan on 30-60 minutes to visit the bridge from the time you park. There are hiking trails at the State Park, so plan for extra time if you want to explore or take a hike.

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