The story of the Smith Rapids covered bridge - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

The story of the Smith Rapids covered bridge

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FIFIELD (WAOW) -

Concrete and steel are considered the go-to supplies for major construction projects. 

But not for one bridge in Price County. 

That's where engineers put a modern twist on a building design from the 1800s.  Now that bridge is marking more than 20 years as the only one of its kind in the state.   

The Smith Rapids Covered Bridge over the Flambeau River utilizes a Towne Lattice Truss design with a wooden bridge spanning 76 feet on Forest Road 148.

"The first vehicle covered bridge built in Wisconsin in over a hundred years" engineering technician Dave Campbell told Newsline 9.    

Campbell says when designers were planning to build a bridge on Forest Road 148, they wanted something that would standout. 

"Designing this bridge involved extensive travel visiting historic covered bridges" Campbell said.  

"The Town Lattice truss design is the load bearing component.  It's interesting to note with the original designs they were large beams cut out of single trees" he added.   

When building the bridge in 1991, designers wanted to spare large trees from being cut down.  So they employed a construction method known as glue-lamination.  Essentially the process involves gluing small lumber together to form big beams.  The result is a bridge Campbell says is built to last.

"It's performed well-above our expectations.  It's an amazing sight.  We have people making special trips just to see the bridge" Campbell said.   

"It ties in to the Rustic Road we have here" life-long Price County resident Manny Stein said. 

Stein says when the Wisconsin Department of Transportation named Forest Road 148 as a Wisconsin Rustic Road, the bridge became a Price County treasure. 

Rustic roads are designed to preserve Wisconsin's most scenic drives.  And that's something he says this bridge personifies.   

"It's really unique to have something like this in our own backyard" Stein said.   

And that is keeping a proven form of architecture from being left in the rear view mirror of history.  

Directions to the Smith Rapids Covered Bridge:

From Wausau:  Go north on Highway 51 for 42 miles to exit 234 (Prentice / Rhinelander exit). Turn left onto Highway 8 (toward Prentice) and drive 32 miles.  Turn right onto Wisconsin 13 (toward Phillips) and drive 26 miles. At the intersection of Wisconsin 13 and Highway 70 in Fifield go right.  Stay on Highway 70 for about 12 miles and then take a left onto Forest Road 148.  The bridge is straight ahead.  Parking, a campground and a picnic area are available to the left before you cross the bridge.   

 

From Wisconsin Rapids: Go northwest for 16 miles on Highway 73.  At Pittsville, go right onto County Highway A and travel 17 miles.  County Highway A becomes West Arnold Street through Marshfield, and then becomes Highway 13.  Follow Wisconsin 13 for about 95 miles to the intersection of Wisconsin 13 and Highway 70 in Fifield. Go right.   on Highway 70 for about 12 miles and then take a left onto Forest Road 148.  The bridge is straight ahead.  Parking, a campground and a picnic area are available to the left before you cross the bridge.   

 

From Rhinelander: Go west on Highway 8 (toward Prentice) for 48 miles. Turn right onto Wisconsin 13 (toward Phillips) and drive 26 miles. At the intersection of Wisconsin 13 and Highway 70 in Fifield go right. Stay on Highway 70 for about 12 miles and then take a left onto Forest Road 148.  The bridge is straight ahead.  Parking, a campground and a picnic area are available to the left before you cross the bridge.   

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