Off the Beaten Path: A Covered Bridge

We often wander through the landmarks of a town or city without going off the beaten path. Sometimes it is the limited time on hand or access to the location; other times it is the lack of knowledge of that unusual landmark.

A culmination of points of interest converge at the Covered Bridge at Sugar Creek in Glenarm, Illinois. It’s a short drive south from Springfield, off of Interstate 55, on to the historical Route 66, and into the heartland of USA.

Route 66 and Interstate 55

Going south on the historic Route 66 and veering just a little over a mile off the Mother Road will take you to two sites of interest: 1) Sugar Creek Covered Bridge and 2) Pioneer Park. The small park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Pioneer Park

Pioneer Park is the site of the first settler's home in Sangamon County built by Robert Pulliam. Perhaps due to his checkered life the park isn't spoken of much but the city of Springfield honors Pulliam with this historical marker and a plaque located downtown.

Sugar Creek Covered Bridge

This wooden trussed bridge was constructed by Thomas Black in 1827 and served the early settlers of Sangamon County. The Illinois Department of Transportation rehabilitated the bridge in 1965. Only two wooden covered bridges remain in Sangamon County and this is one of the five remaining in Illinois.

Burr Arch Truss, Sugar Creek Covered Bridge

Theodore Burr is credited with the Burr Arch Truss bridge design. The principle behind a Burr arch truss is that the arch is capable of bearing the entire load on the bridge and the truss keeps the bridge rigid. A slightly modified version of the Burr truss is used in the Sugar Creek Covered Bridge with an "X" diagonal within each panel. The truss span of this covered bridge is 60 feet.

Sugar Creek Covered Bridge

During the repairs in 1965, the lower chord of the Sugar Creek Covered Bridge was jacked and straightened. These lower chords rests on metal piers at each end. All material used during the restoration is the same as the original structure.

Sugar Creek

Sugar Creek is a tributary of the Sangamon River, which comprises of an upper and lower section. In Sangamon County, Sugar Creek refers to the 100-square-mile upper section.

Sugar Creek Covered Bridge

Twenty four feet approaches lead into the east and west portals of the Sugar Creek Covered Bridge. The portal height and width are constructed with the same measurements. The handrails were erected during the reconstruction process in 1965.

"I took the one less traveled..."

A section of a trail near Sugar Creek reminds me about life in general. Figuratively, I have taken a path that is less traveled. Literally, I have walked the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail during summer and winter; driven the Robert Frost Memorial Drive; and visited the Bread Loaf School of English. All thanks to a teacher for whom I had to memorize and understand Frost's The Road Not Taken, and for which I am forever grateful.

Cornfields of Central Illinois

You are in the heartland of the USA as you head back from Sugar Creek Covered Bridge to either Route 66 or Interstate 55. Corn and soybean fields adorn the landscape of central Illinois. Contrary to the proverbial idiom, corn is nowadays more than knee-high by the 4th of July. Perhaps the corn along this road is a genetically modified crop.

Lake Springfield

Last call to Lake Springfield before you head back Interstate 55. A reservoir, Lake Springfield was formed by building a dam across Sugar Creek, which is a tributary of the Sangamon River. The lake serves as a local recreation spot but there are sites to keep clear of the crowd.

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