Horton Covered Bridge
Amnicon Falls State Park
Among the attractions at Amnicon Falls State Park is the 55-foot long bridge that spans the river at the Lower Falls. Originally it had no covering and was a highway bridge that crossed the Amnicon River not far from the park.
The bridge, called a Horton or bowstring bridge, is historically significant due both to its age and unusual construction. In 1897 and 1898, Charles M. Horton, while working in Duluth and Superior, obtained a number of patents for bridges that he claimed made them stronger, lighter and more durable. In addition, he said his design would allow workers to quickly assemble the structure without expensive machinery, tools and labor. His method called for using arched beams secured with hooks and clips rather than rivets and bolts.
In 1899, Horton moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, where he established a business and began erecting bridges on a small scale. Perhaps he was attracted to the area because of a severe flood in the spring of that year that forced the replacement of many bridges.
It is not known how many bowstring bridges of Horton's design were built or when the bridge that now serves park visitors was constructed. Today only five other Horton bridges are known, and they are also owned by the Department of Natural Resources at the Van Loon Wildlife Area in La Crosse County.
In 1930, our bridge was moved to its present location so park visitors could get to the island around which the river flows. Members of the Brule Civilian Conservation Corps added the roof in 1939.
The roof was replaced in 1941 after collapsing from heavy snows and again in 1971 when it was destroyed by a fire set by vandals. Today the covered bridge serves not only a practical necessity, but as a picturesque attraction as well.