The rivers that criss-cross Grand Rapids and West Michigan were integral to the region's explosive growth in the 19th century - especially after bridges were built to traverse the waters. Here are a few must-sees for bridge aficionados:
Ada Covered Bridge and Fallasburg Bridge are must-see covered bridges in the area.
Photo by Brian Craig for Experience Grand Rapids
Ada Covered Bridge at Leonard Park. Spans the Thornapple River, connecting the village of Ada to a public park on the other side. Rebuilt to its 1850s-era glory with the help of Ada's Amway Corporation.
Fallasburg Covered Bridge. One of only three covered bridges open to vehicle traffic in Michigan, it spans 100 feet across beautiful Flat River.
White's Covered Bridge. The bridge was the oldest covered bridge in Michigan, built in 1869. Located about 20 miles east of Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, this bridge burned down in July 2013. Here are photos of the bridge.
Bowen's Mill Bridge. A quaint scale replica of the covered bridge that once crossed the Thornapple River. A 17 foot water wheel and 1864 Grist Mill can be viewed from the bridge, which is about 20 miles south of Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids Bridges: Blue Bridge, Pearl Street Bridge and the Gillett Bridge
Photo by Brian Kelly Photography
Gillett Bridge. The fourth longest concrete arch bridge in Michigan (474 feet) was built as an interurban railway over the Grand River in 1915. It is now a pedestrian walkway connecting two downtown landmarks, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and DeVos Place Convention Center and Performance Hall.
Blue Bridge. One of the longest truss bridges in Michigan, this was originally a railroad crossing over the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids. It's been converted to a pedestrian walkway connecting downtown with Grand Rapids Public Museum, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Grand Valley State University.
Pearl Street Bridge. Michigan's third longest concrete arch bridge is actually not an arch bridge anymore – but it retains the historic arch facade. It spans the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids between the Amway Grand Plaza and Ah-Nab-Awen Park, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
Fulton Street Bridge. Michigan's second largest concrete arch bridge retains much of its historical integrity. It runs parallel to downtown's Pearl Street Bridge over the Grand River between Pind Indian Cuisine and the downtown campus of Grand Valley State University.
Together, these four bridges lend a charming European feel to downtown, especially when they're lighted at night.
Sixth Street Bridge. This wrought-iron bridge was constructed in 1866 and is the longest pin-connected highway truss in Michigan. Spans 544 feet over the Grand River just north of downtown. HistoricBridges.org calls it "a model for how all bridges, especially historic bridges, should be cared for."
The Sixth Street Bridge and the Blue Bridge are iconic bridges of Grand Rapids.
Photo by Experience Grand Rapids
Kent Trails Bridge. Built in 1894, this 138-foot former railroad bridge over the Grand River connects Millennium Park to the southern suburbs of Grandville, Wyoming and Byron Center. It’s also called the Hopewell Indian Mounds Railroad Bridge for the adjacent historic mounds site (not open to the public).
North Park Bridge. One of the longest truss bridges ever built in Michigan (circa 1904) once connected the cities of Grand Rapids and Walker over the Grand River. A 116-foot section of that original bridge was relocated to Riverside Park in 1991, where it now crosses a canal on a bike/hike path.
Oxford Trail Bridge. Renovated railroad trestle spans 680 feet over the Grand River to connect Millennium Park and the Kent Trails Network to the city’s Black Hills Neighborhood (named for the numerous Black Walnut trees sprinkled throughout).