The Wooden Bridges of Sparta Wisconsin are close enough to each other for a beautiful stroll or bicycle ride through the city. One way to enjoy the bridges is by starting with the Beaver Creek Covered Bridge. By car, take South Water Street to Main Street and turn left. On your right is a parking lot next to the Library. Park in the lot next to the Library. You will hear the rushing sound of Beaver Creek and you will see the Beaver Creek Bridge. Go ahead and cross the Beaver Creek Covered Bridge.
The Beaver Creek Covered Bridge was built from readily available lumber using a design by The bridge was constructed piece-by-piece, in place, atop a scaffold erected in Beaver Creek. To everyone’s amazement, after the scaffolding was removed, the bridge only came down 3/16ths of an inch. Ultimately, the bridge spurred the redevelopment of the downtown area. The bridge was also the imputus for directing DNR stream rehabilitation funds to the area immediately under the bridge, creating fish habitat and water features that provide a constant rushing sound. Once you have crossed this bridge you will walk through Mueller Square. There are awesome shops to explore, or continue your walk by crossing Water Street and walk toward the Captain’s Corner Barber Shop. Walk along the beautiful bicycle mural painted on the building and continue walking until you get to Main Street. Cross Main Street and keep walking. Next you will come to the Mary Morrow Covered Bridge.
The Mary Morrow Covered Bridge crafted in the Towne Lattice truss style required more timber craft skills. The 3x10x16ft lattice pieces would come from large and rare 16 ft White Pine logs. Structural members of the truss were fashioned only with Red Oak dowels or “Treenails.” The eye level treenails were fitted with medallions that have the names of sponsors engraved. Twenty pallets of limestone for the bridge abutments were repurposed from a family homestead. On December 5th, the bridge was lifted into place by crane mating perfectly with sidewalks and ramps.
Cross the Mary Morrow Covered Bridge and follow the path to the right. The next bridge you will come to is the Pointe Covered Bridge. The Pointe Covered Bridge was a natural progression of trail improvement from the Ben Bikin’ Bridge toward downtown Sparta. The bridge replaced an adjacent foot bridge that was too narrow for snowmobile trail grooming equipment and not capable of carrying more than pedestrian loads. A covered bridge was created which spans 48 feet with a 14-foot suspended approach on each end to accommodate the highest water. Like the Ben Bikin’ Bridge, the large wood components were assembled and swung into place by crane on January 12, 2013 with bolts perfectly matching holes. Cross this bridge and you’ll walk under Hwy 16. The next bridge you will come to is the Ben Bikin’ Bridge.
The Ben Bikin’ Bridge was created with the goal to better connect the Sparta-Elroy State Bike Trail with downtown Sparta. The goal would be to build a bridge over the La Crosse River to create an attraction and a very visible means to traverse the Evans-Bosshard trail system. The bridge would require extensive hydraulic engineering to explore the effects of building on a floodway. Also required would be studying the snowmobile groomers that would be on the bridge. Assembly of the bridge took place to the southwest of its ultimate location and the bridge was lifted into place by crane May 24, 2011 with bolts perfectly matching holes.
The Five Shovelmen Bridge is located in Amundson Park which is on the southwest side of Sparta. To reach this bridge, retrace your steps to the Beaver Creek Covered Bridge where you parked your car. Out of the parking lot, take a right onto Main Street. Turn left at the intersection. Continue to Hwy 16 (Wisconsin Street). Turn right onto Wisconsin Street. Continue through the light, past Walmart and turn left at Anytime Fitness onto Aspen Blvd. Continue until you see the sign for Amundson Park and turn right. Continue until you find a parking lot with a gate. Walk past the gate and continue on the path until you see the Five Shovelmen Bridge.
The Five Shovelmen Bridge started with a Conditional Use Permit agreed to by US Silica and the City of Sparta. The bridge is a modern bowstring through truss style built over the La Crosse River in Amundson Park. The bridge has the longest span of the five bridges and the entire project is the most ambitious. With logistical assistance from US Silica the bridge was built between Amundson Park and the future Smith Lake. This bridge will have an extensive bicycle trail built on the south side of the La Crosse River, ultimately connecting to the State Bike Trail.