Three miles east of Cowden in Shelby County, Thompson Mill Covered Bridge crosses the Kaskaskia River. Completed in 1868 at the then- whopping cost of $2,500, this wonderfully restored piece of Illinois history is located on a once important route between Effingham and Springfield. It’s named for the owner of a mill that was located near the bridge.

It is the narrowest of all the covered bridges in Illinois, with a width of 10 feet 7 inches. This 105 foot-long Howe truss span is one of only five 19th century covered bridges remaining in Illinois. Covered bridges were constructed with a roof and sidewalls to protect the roadway from weather (not to keep horses from being spooked as many believe). This treasure of rural Illinois transportation history is on the National Register of Historic places and, though closed to automobiles, is open to pedestrian traffic.

– Ed Baumgarten

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