Early spring trip to Ashtabula County, Ohio

The air was breezy and cooler coming off of Lake Erie in Geneva. (Julie Geiss photo)

It is safe to say that spring has arrived in a grumpy mood. Strong winds have whipped across the state two weekends in a row, severing power lines and toppling trees. We had our share of power outages, but thankfully we had a generator prepped and ready.

When the winds died down and the temperature increased 20 degrees, I figured it was time to go hiking. It’s still early spring and the wind somehow didn’t dry out all the mud. The dogs had to miss out on this adventure. Paws aren’t quite as removable as hiking boots.

Harpersfield Covered Bridge

I decided to head north into Ashtabula County. My grandfather, an Ashtabula County native circa 1917, had pictures of covered bridges hanging in his dining room. I wanted to take my son to my favorite one, Harpersfield Covered Bridge. Using the county metro park website, I did my research on the park.

We enjoyed the drive north, noticing daffodils competing with forsythia bushes for the brightest yellow blooms along the road. Weeping cherry trees had delicate blossoms and Callery pear trees were just beginning their blooming season. We passed by several wineries and vineyards, the grape vines still dark and slumbering.

We had no idea that we were in for a big surprise. Not being a local to the county, I had no idea that the bridge was being renovated. The website didn’t mention the project.

My first clue was when the bridge segment on my GPS turned red, signaling road closure. Then, we drove by a road closure sign. Luckily for us, the metro park alongside the riverbank was still open to the public.

Renovation history

Harpersfield Covered Bridge, located in Harpersfield Township, was originally built in 1868 and was the longest-covered bridge in Ohio at the time. The double-span Howe truss bridge has had several modifications over the years.

After a flood in 1913, a steel span was added, replacing the land that was washed away at the north end. Another renovation in 1991 included adding a walkway to the bridge.

Spanning across the Grand River, the original bridge was stately and majestic. Like other historical covered bridges, the design of a roof kept the wooden deck from rotting and decaying after exposure to snow and rain. However, on the day of our trip, all we could see was the dam and some remaining supports in the water.

The goal for completion of the current renovation project is December of 2023. The renovation includes replacing all the piers and the two abutments. The project includes a new deck, siding, and a galvanized steel roof. Steel beams are being added to support traffic on the bridge.

Both sides of the renovated bridge will have a walkway. The trusses will remain the same, although the section of the steel bridge will be galvanized and have a silverish-gray appearance instead of green.

Surprisingly, the peaceful atmosphere of the park remained the same even with construction vehicles lining the road. My son was excited to see the large sections of removed materials like roofing trusses and foundation stones in piles and rows.

What I saw as a gaping hole in the landscape, he saw as an erector set waiting to be re-assembled. Massive cranes
and construction equipment also looked different through his eyes than mine.


After exploring the park, I gave him the choice between seeing the world’s longest-covered bridge or going to Geneva-on-the-Lake. Ultimately, his hunger pains swayed him and we headed toward GOTL. Quiet and empty, the lakeside town still had summer vibes.

An epic buffalo chicken sandwich temporarily filled his bottomless pit of a stomach and we headed towards the state park lodge. He headed to the very familiar footpath that follows the contour of Lake Erie. The air was breezy and cooler coming off the lake as I followed after him.

The Geneva Orange Trail is a 4.1-mile out-and-back trail that is also a part of the Lake Erie Birding Trail. The trail is a wonderful place to view Lake Erie but also includes sections of woodlands.

Four other designated trails under a mile in length are easily accessible to hikers as well. Our only wildlife sighting was a pair of geese resting on Cowles Creek which meets with lake water right under the trail.

When I started our car, the temperature right by the lake was 47 degrees. As we headed south towards our home, the temperature rose to 72 degrees.

I can’t wait to return to Lake Erie for some summer fun, but we will have to wait a little longer for a follow-up trip to Harpersfield covered bridge. I have a feeling it will look much different in the spring of 2024 as it bridges the gap from the past into the future for many more generations to safely enjoy.


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at juliegeiss1414@gmail.com.



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